Germany–Turkey relations

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German–Turkish relations
Map indicating locations of Germany and Turkey



German–Turkish relations have their beginnings in the times of the Ottoman Empire and have culminated in the development of strong bonds with many facets that include economic, military, cultural and social relations. With Turkey as a candidate for the European Union, of which Germany is the biggest member, and the existence of a huge Turkish diaspora in Germany, these relations have become more and more intertwined over the decades. Relations with Turkey significantly deteriorated after the 2016–17 Turkish purges and Turkey's turn to authoritarianism[1][2][3][4][5] including the arrest of journalists such as Die Welt's Deniz Yücel.


"The Great Gun" (1518), an allegorical representation by Albrecht Dürer of the Turkish menace for the German lands.
The three emperors of the Central Powers during World War I: Wilhelm II, Mehmed V, Franz Joseph. All three empires (German, Turkish, Austrian) came to an end in the aftermath of the war.
The summer residence of the German Consulate (German Embassy until 1923) in Tarabya, Istanbul, on the Bosphorus.

Medieval and Early Modern periods[edit]

Wars between the Holy Roman Empire and Ottoman Empire[edit]

Late 19th century and World War I[edit]

An Unrealized Project of the House of Friendship in Istanbul for the Ottoman-German Alliance, 1916 (Osmanlı-Alman Dostuk Evi Projesi)

The German proposals to build a railway system toward Baghdad alarmed the British, for it threatened British control over the links to India. However these issues were peacefully resolved in February 1914, and did not play a role in the July 1914 crisis that ended in the Great War.

The Ottoman–German Alliance was an alliance between the German Empire and the Ottoman Empire made on August 2, 1914, shortly following the outbreak of World War I. The alliance was created as part of a joint-cooperative effort that would strengthen and modernize the failing Ottoman military, as well as provide Germany safe passage into neighboring British colonies. The treaty came from the initiative of the Ottomans. It was replaced in January 1915 by a full-scale military alliance that promised Ottoman entry into the war.[6][7][8]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, Turkey maintained diplomatic relations with Germany until August 1944. The German–Turkish Non-Aggression Pact was signed on 18 June 1941. In October 1941, the "Clodius Agreement" (named after the German negotiator, Dr. Carl August Clodius) was achieved, whereby Turkey would export up 45,000 tons of chromite ore to Germany in 1941-1942, and 90,000 tons of the mineral in each of 1943 and 1944, contingent on Germany's supplies of military equipment to Turkey. The Germans provided as many as 117 railway locomotives and 1,250 freight rail cars to transport the ore. In an attempt to prevent the supply of this strategic mineral to Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom went on a spree of what was termed "preclusive buying," buying out Turkish chromite even if they did not need so much of it. As a part of the "package deal," the Anglo-Americans bought Turkish dried fruit and tobacco as well.[9]

In August 1944, the Soviet Army entered Bulgaria and cut overland contact between Turkey and the Axis powers. Turkey severed its diplomatic and commercial relations with Germany, and on February 23, 1945, declared war on Germany.[9]

Accession of Turkey to the European Union[edit]

Germany's support to the Turkish bid has not been consistent in the German political arena. Support has varied over time; for example one former Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, expressed opposition on the issue, while another, Gerhard Schröder, was seen to be a staunch supporter.[citation needed]

Chancellor Merkel's views on accession[edit]

Skyline of Levent financial district in Istanbul, as seen from the Bosphorus. Upon Turkey's accession, Istanbul would become the largest city of the European Union and Turkey would be the largest and most populous EU member.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has advocated a "vaguely defined partnership"[10] and has opposed full membership of Turkey to the EU.[11][12] Current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in response in July 2009, "We will never accept a privileged partnership. We want full membership into the EU. We don't want anything else than full membership.”[11]

In 2006, Chancellor Merkel said "Turkey could be in deep, deep trouble when it comes to its aspirations to join the European Union" regarding its refusal to open up its ports to European Union member Cyprus.[13] She added:

We need an implementation of the Ankara Protocols regarding unrestricted trade with Cyprus too. Otherwise, the situation becomes very, very serious when it comes to the continuation of Turkey's accession negotiations. I appeal to Turkey to do everything to avoid such a complicated situation and not to lead the European Union into such a situation.

Merkel also said that she could not imagine negotiations continuing without concessions made by Ankara toward opening up its ports to Cypriot ships.[13] The Turkish Government responded by demanding that the EU lift its embargo on the Turkish-controlled part of the island in return.[14]

Temporary block of accession talks in June 2013[edit]

View of Taksim Gezi Park and Levent financial district, as seen from the roof bar of the Marmara Hotel on Taksim Square.

On 20 June 2013, in the wake of Ankara's crackdown on mass demonstrations in Taksim Square and throughout the country, Germany blocked the start to new EU accession talks with Turkey.[15] According to the Financial Times, one Turkish official said that such a move could potentially break off political relations with the bloc.[15] "The EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the EU," Egemen Bagis, Turkey's EU minister stated.[15] "If we have to, we could tell them, "get lost.'"[15] Germany says that its reservation stems from a technical issue, but Angela Merkel has described herself as "shocked" after Ankara's use of overwhelming police force against mostly peaceful demonstrators.[15]

On 25 June EU foreign ministers backed a German proposal to postpone further EU membership talks with Turkey for about four months due to the Turkey's handling of the protests.[16] A delay in opening new chapters for Turkey would raise new doubts about whether the country should ever be admitted to the European Union.[17] In early June in comments on Turkey's possible membership German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not address the compromise proposal but said Turkey must make progress on its relations with EU member Cyprus to give impetus to its membership ambitions. [18][19]

State visits[edit]

The monogram of Wilhelm II and the tughra of Abdul Hamid II on the dome of the German Fountain in Istanbul, commemorating the Kaiser's visit to Turkey in 1898.

In 2006, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Turkey for talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on bilateral relations and to discuss accession of Turkey to the EU.[20]

In 2008, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Berlin and met Chancellor Merkel, and also visited Munich. He suggested during the visit that the German government establish Turkish medium schools and that German high schools hire more teachers from Turkey.[21]

In 2011, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made another visit to Germany During a speech in Düsseldorf, he urged Turks in Germany, to integrate, but not assimilate, a statement that caused a political outcry in Germany.[22]

Economic relations[edit]

Germany and Turkey have held strong economic ties with one another throughout time. Machinery, electrical goods and motor vehicles and supply parts for the automobile industry account for a particularly large portion of German exports to Turkey. Textiles/leather goods and food, and increasingly motor vehicles and electronic goods, are the principal German imports from Turkey.[23] At present, companies owned by Turkish businessmen in Germany employ approximately 200 thousand people. The annual turnover of these companies has reached 45 billion marks. More than three million German tourists visit Turkey annually. More than 4000 German companies are active in Turkey. Germany has turned out to be the number one partner of Turkey in fields such as foreign trade, financial and technical cooperation, tourism and defense industry.[24]

Relationship between Turkish and German political parties[edit]

HDP and German green party[edit]

In May 2015, the German party Alliance '90/The Greens encouraged Turkish citizens living in Germany to vote for the Turkish Party HDP in the upcoming Turkish general election, June 2015.[25]

AKP and CDU[edit]

On 16 February 2004, Angela Merkel, then chairwoman of the German opposition party CDU, met with representatives of the ruling Turkish party AKP. The press response was somewhat perplexing, as for example, the German magazine Der Spiegel first reported of a "Anti-Türkei-Reise" (Anti-Turkey-voyage) and only hours later that "CDU will mit islamischer AKP kooperieren" (CDU wants to cooperate with Islamic AKP).[26] On 31 July 2016, the German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported, that the "Union der Vielfalt", a group of members of the CDU warned the party leadership against infiltration from the AKP.[27]

Turkish diaspora[edit]

Turkish and Turkish Cypriot youth performing as an Ottoman military band in Uetersen.

With an estimated number of at least 2.1 million Turks in Germany, they form the largest ethnic minority.[28] The vast majority are found in Western Germany.

Based on good Turkish-German relations from the 19th century onwards, Germany promoted a Turkish immigration to Germany. However, large scale didn't occur until the 20th century. Germany suffered an acute labor shortage after World War II and, in 1961, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) officially invited Turkish workers to Germany to fill in this void, particularly to work in the factories that helped fuel Germany's economic miracle. The German authorities named these people Gastarbeiter (German for guest workers). Most Turks in Germany trace their ancestry to Central and Eastern Anatolia. Today, Turks are Germany's largest ethnic minority and form most of Germany's Muslim minority.

Turkish espionage in Germany[edit]

In July 2015 The Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that German federal prosecutors were looking into claims that three men - two Turks and a German national - were instructed by MIT to spy on Erdogan critics in Cologne, particularly Kurds and members of the Muslim minority Alevi community.[29]

In 2016, Bundestag Parliamentary Oversight Panel members demanded answer from German government about the reports that Germans of Turkish origin are being pressured in Germany by informers and officers of Turkey's MIT spy agency. According to reports Turkey had 6,000 informants plus MIT officers in Germany who were putting pressure on "German Turks". Hans-Christian Ströbele told that there was an "unbelievable" level of "secret activities" in Germany by Turkey's MIT agency. According to Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, not even the former communist East German Stasi secret police had managed to run such a large "army of agents" in the former West Germany: "Here, it's not just about intelligence gathering, but increasingly about intelligence service repression."[30] German lawmakers have called for an investigation, charging that Turkey is spying on suspected Gulen followers in Germany.[31] Many people who were spied upon were German citizens.[32]

In March 2017 the Turkish secret intelligence service MIT was accused of conducting espionage of more than 300 people and 200 associations and schools linked to supporters of exiled Fethullah Gülen. Boris Pistorius (de), interior minister for Lower Saxony State, called this "intolerable and unacceptable", stating that "the intensity and ruthlessness with which people abroad are being investigated is remarkable". A German security official said that "we are horrified at how openly Turkey reveals that it is spying on Turks living here".[33] [34][35] On 30 March 2017 Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere expresses suspicions that the move may have been intended to weigh on Turkish-German relations − "to provoke us in some way".[36] The appallment was deepened when it was revealed that the 300 persons included politicians, including Michelle Müntefering.[37][38][39]

In October 2017, according to German press reports officials working in Germany's immigration authorities pass on information about Turkish asylum seekers to Turkey. In many cases, even their locations were also revealed, that even their families did not know for security reasons. These incidents showed that Turkish spies may have infiltrated German authorities.[40] In addition, Herbert Reul, the interior minister for the German state of the North Rhine-Westphalia, submitted a report to the state parliament, alleging that the Turkish-German organisation "Osmanen Germania" works with MIT. The organisation denied the accusations.[41] In July 2018, Germany banned the organisation on allegations it is involved in organized crime and represents a threat to the general public.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Turkey quickly sliding into authoritarian rule after move to increase Erdogan's powers". The Independent. 30 December 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Chan, Sewell (9 January 2017). "Turkey's Parliament Starts Debate on Expansion of President's Powers". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  3. ^ Dombey, Daniel. "Turkey's Erdogan lurches toward authoritarianism". Financial Times. Retrieved 10 January 2017. 
  4. ^ "Can Turkey's Democracy Survive President Erdogan?". The New York Times. 1 November 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2017. 
  5. ^ Braun, Stefan. "Europarat sieht Türkei auf dem Weg in die Autokratie" (in German). Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  6. ^ Hew Strachan, The First World War: Volume I: To Arms. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press, 2003) pp 644-93.
  7. ^ Gerard E. Silberstein, "The Central Powers and the Second Turkish Alliance, 1915." Slavic Review 24.1 (1965): 77-89. in JSTOR
  8. ^ Frank G. Weber, Eagles on the Crescent: Germany, Austria, and the diplomacy of the Turkish alliance, 1914-1918 (Cornell University Press, 1970).
  9. ^ a b Allied Relations and Negotiations With Turkey, US State Department, pp. 6-8
  10. ^ "Turkey ready to step up EU entry talks - Taiwan News Online". 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  11. ^ a b "PM: Turkey tired of EU's buts, ifs, maybes". 2009-07-08. Retrieved 2012-05-09. [permanent dead link]
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ a b "Merkel Worried about Turkey: Situation Is "Very, Very Serious" - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  14. ^ "The World from Berlin: Talking Tough with Turkey - SPIEGEL ONLINE". 2006-11-27. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Dombey, Daniel, James Fontanella-Khan, and Quentin Peel (21 June 2013). "Germany blocks Turkey's bid to join EU". Financial Times. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  16. ^ "Germany proposes delaying EU-Turkey talks over protests". 24 June 2017 – via Reuters. 
  17. ^ "EU delays latest round of Turkish entry talks". 
  18. ^ "Subscribe to read". 
  19. ^ "Germany's Merkel calls on Turkey to remove hurdles to EU accession". 24 June 2017 – via Reuters. 
  20. ^ "The World From Berlin: Avoiding an EU-Turkey Ice Age - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  21. ^ "Turkey's Prime Minister Surprises Merkel: Erdogan Proposes Turkish-Medium High Schools for Germany - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  22. ^ "Erdogan Urges Turks Not to Assimilate: 'You Are Part of Germany, But Also Part of Our Great Turkey' - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  23. ^ "diplo - Startseite - HTTP Status 404" (in German). Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  24. ^ "From past to present relations between Germany and Turkey' -". Retrieved 2012-01-01. 
  25. ^ Aufruf von BÜNDNIS 90/ DIE GRÜNEN zur Wahl der HDP bei den türkischen Parlamentswahlen (Call of Alliance 90 / The Greens to vote for the HDP in the Turkish parliamentary elections, 18.05.2015) (Google translation)
  26. ^ EU-Wahlkampf: Merkel auf Anti-Türkei-Reise (Spiegel-online, 16.02.2004 – 06:33 CET) (Google translation), Merkels Türkeireise: CDU will mit islamischer AKP kooperieren (Spiegel-online, 16.02.2004 – 13:36 CET)) (Google translation)
  27. ^ "Einfluss auf Union: Migranten warnen CDU vor Infiltration durch AKP - WELT". 
  28. ^ Archived from the original on May 29, 2007. Retrieved May 12, 2010.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ "Report: Turkey's MIT agency menacing 'German Turks'". 
  30. ^ "Report: Turkey's MIT agency menacing 'German Turks'". 
  31. ^ "German Lawmakers Call for Probe on Imams Suspected of Spying for Turkey". turkeypurge. Retrieved 10 December 2016. 
  32. ^ "ERDOGAN'S MUSLIM SPIES: Turkish imams snooping on Merkel's Germany for President". express. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  33. ^ "Germany accuses Turkey of 'unacceptable' spying". The Independent. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  34. ^ "Germany to investigate claims of 'intolerable' spying by Turkey". The Guardian. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  35. ^ "Turks in Germany warned over surveillance from Ankara". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  36. ^ "Germany: Turkish spy list may be deliberate provocation". Fox News. 30 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  37. ^ "Müntefering wirft türkischem Geheimdienst Denunziation vor". (in German). Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  38. ^ "Name of German SPD lawmaker Michelle Müntefering found on Turkish spying list". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  39. ^ "Spionage-Affäre: Michelle Müntefering auf türkischer Geheimdienstliste" (in German). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 29 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  40. ^ Turkey spies betraying asylum seekers in German immigration offices
  41. ^ 'Sons of AKP': Turkish-German biker gang accused of aiding Turkish spies
  42. ^ Germany bans Turkish biker gang Osmanen Germania

External links[edit]