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.