So far, Germany has been willing to forgive Turkey for many things in order to keep it as a gatekeeper for Europe in refugee policy and to defuse the dispute with the EU states of Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. On her first trip to Turkey, Foreign Minister Baerbock made it clear that she wanted to put more pressure on Ankara.
Under the grand coalition, Germany had been accused of kicking President Erdogan softly. Baerbock wants to change that.
She clearly sided with Greece in the dispute between Ankara and Athens, criticized Turkish plans for a military intervention in Syria and called for the release of cultural promoter Osman Kavala – three issues on which it was clear that Erdogan’s government would react sensitively.
Although Erdogan’s government had expected a reorientation of German politics after the change of power in Berlin last year, there was no sign of this for a long time. The Ukraine war has upgraded Turkey internationally. Erdogan is one of the few statesmen in the world who can talk to both Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Istanbul Grains Agreement is a result of this special position of the country. Turkey remains a key country for Europe on the refugee issue. Turkey’s foreign policy is characterized by a sense of its own strength, but Erdogan’s veto threat against Finland and Sweden joining NATO came across in the West as an attempt at blackmail.
Ankara obviously didn’t see Baerbock’s change of course coming. For the Turkish government, the frank words of the Federal Foreign Ministers raise the question of what will happen if Germany no longer wants to be the “honest broker” in Turkish-European problems, as Cavusoglu put it.
A new way of dealing with Turkey has been discussed in the West for some time. The starting point is the assessment that Turkey needs the West more economically than the other way around. The EU is Turkey’s largest trading partner, while the United States and Western European countries are the country’s most important arms suppliers. Advocates of a new course believe that this gives the West the opportunity to influence Turkish behavior.
The new policy will soon be put to the test, as Erdogan is likely to intensify his attacks on the West during the election campaign in order to mobilize his nationalist supporters. He will have plenty of opportunity to do so, because there are still ten months until the Turkish elections.