President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is visiting Turkey on Thursday, September, September 27 at a time that can mildly be described as a low point in his relationship to Europe.
His three-day visit is controversial.
President Erdogan is officially a guest of President Frank Walter Steinmeier. He will meet twice with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will nonetheless avoid meeting him socially, boycotting the official banquet in his honour.
There are good reasons for this visit.
On there one hand, there is a sense of economic urgency, as the Turkish economy is rapidly decelerating, the Lira is tumbling, and the European banking system fears contagion. The European banking system is as exposed to Turkey as it was on Greece in 2009.
Confidence in Turkey’s economy fell in September, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) reported on Thursday. The overall confidence index fell by 15,4% in September (71ppt), compared to August (83,9ppt). That is to be expected as the Lira has lost 40% of its value, inflation is in double digits, and the cost of refinancing Turkey’s external debt is mounting.
However, the fear is that President Erdogan could prioritise his political home front.
On the eve of his departure on Wednesday, the Turkish President demanded from Berlin the listing of the Fethullah Gulen movement as a terrorist organization.
“Our primary expectation from the federal republic is the recognition of FETO (Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization) as responsible for the attempted putsch, just as Britain did,” Erdogan wrote in an Op-Ed published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday.
He also said that he hopes to turn a page Turkey’s relations with Germany.
Turkey considers the movement responsible for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. However, Germany continues to resist pressure to label the so-called Hizmet movement as a terrorist network.
Germany has more than three million residents of Turkish origin; among them, the leader of the Green Party, Cem Ozdemir, one of President Erdogan’s biggest critics. And some are taking to the streets. A rally of 10,000 people is expected to take place in Berlin on Friday, the public news agency DW reports.
The German government has come under heavy criticism for allowing President Erdogan to visit as human rights standards in Turkey continue to deteriorate. One of the soar points on the bilateral agenda is the arrest and detainment of German journalists in Turkey.