Merkel Plays Defense

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) und der türkische Staatspräsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan nehmen am UN-Nothilfegipfel am 23.05.2016 in Istanbul teil. Foto: Michael Kappeler/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Angela Merkel and Turkey's President Erdogan in Istanbul on Monday.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Angela Merkel needs to keep the E.U.–Turkey refugee deal alive. But Turkey is refusing to make domestic reforms, while some in Germany condemn the deal with an increasingly hardline Turkish government.
  • Facts


    • In a deal struck in March, the E.U. and Turkey agreed on refugee resettlement, aid to Turkey, domestic reforms in Turkey, and visa-free travel to E.U. from Turkey. But this deal now looks fragile.
    • Angela Merkel badly needs the deal to succeed, in order to prevent the repeat of last year’s huge influx of refugees to Europe from the Middle East.
    • The Turkish president has instigated broad crackdowns on opponents and civil rights in the country, leading many to question Turkey’s commitment to the values of the E.U.
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan kept his visitor waiting for a quarter of an hour. But then the Turkish president received Chancellor Angela Merkel with exaggerated good manners. A smile for the cameras, a warm handshake and “Willkommen,” the German word for “welcome.” It is a safe bet things were not so polite behind closed doors.

To an extraordinary degree, Ms. Merkel’s political fate is bound up with the president of Turkey. The country is at the heart of the deal which Ms. Merkel hopes will solve the European refugee crisis. In the agreement, struck between Turkey and the European Union in March, Turkey agreed to accept large numbers of refugees sent back from Europe, in return for financial assistance, visa-free travel to the E.U. for Turkish citizens, and an acceleration of Turkey’s long-frozen application to join the E.U.

In recent weeks, the deal has looked decidedly shaky, not least because its architect on the Turkish side, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, has been forced out of office. A wave of authoritarian measures in Turkey – crackdowns on the press and on Turkey’s Kurdish minority – are also putting the deal under severe pressure. In Germany, Mr. Erdogan has won no friends by pressing for the prosecution of a well-known German television comedian, who broadcast an obscene poem about the Turkish president.

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