ANKARA: View from Germany

View from Germany

TDN
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

DOMESTIC

Professor Faruk SEN - German Chancellor Gerard Schroeder has a
full agenda for his one-day visit on May 4. After formal talks with
government officials in Ankara he travels to Istanbul. There he will
visit Marmara University, where instruction is conducted in German,
have a meeting with the Fener Patriarchate and attend a meeting of
business associations where he is a featured speaker, before returning
to Germany.

Nowadays, the dominant hands-off attitude throughout Europe towards
Turkey has begun to prevail in Germany as well. The opposition
Christian Democrats Party (CDU) is using every detail against Turkey
with the Armenian issue first. Also, the political environment stemming
from the May 22 North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) elections hinders positive
signals towards Turkey. The election is very important since NRW is
the biggest state in Germany with a population of 18 million.  

The share of the German public with a negative attitude towards
Turkey’s European Union membership is increasing, according to public
opinion poll results. The paltry 1 percent gross domestic product
(GDP) growth rate gives fear to the Germans since regional and
structural funds will flow to Eastern Europe beginning in 2007. As a
result, the potential of a rising poverty ratio is increasing among
Germans, especially in the Ruhr Basin. The fact that the ratio of
Germans living under the poverty line is about 14 percent, and its
disheartening upward trend strengthens the negative public attitude
towards Turkey’s EU membership.

The common belief in NRW is that 39 years of governing by Social
Democrats with Greens will come to an end, and Christian Democrats,
even in a coalition government, will come to power. The May 22
elections will bring a lot of change to Berlin politics.

Although [citizens of] the new EU members do not yet have the right
of free movement, they come to Germany by using the right to establish
their own business and they work mainly in the construction sector at a
wage of 8 euros per hour, while the cost of a native German worker is
about 26 euros per hour to the firm. This causes a big drop in wages
and also an increase in unemployment amongst German society. All
these economic deficiencies result in the strong reaction of the
German public to the enlargement process.

Turkey has also understood that the date, mostly compelled
by Germany, to begin accession talks did not carry the same meaning
as it did for the Turkish government on Dec. 17.

There are questions to be answered by the visit of Schroeder.
What will Schroeder, one of the biggest supporters of Turkey’s EU
membership, bring as new messages from Berlin? Will he be able to
strengthen the motivation of the Turkish government in their EU way?
Will trade volume, on the threshold of 20 billion euros, rise? Will
new German capital prefer Turkey to invest in? We will get answers
on May 4, but we should not be too pessimistic.

Although Germany is still experiencing “export booms,” we do not
see the same trend in capital export as a result of protectionist and
conservative politics of the state governments and municipalities. They
give much incentive and financial support to prevent capital
outflow. The most important signal will be tourism after Schroeder’s
visit. As the Center for Studies on Turkey, we estimated the number
of German tourists visiting Turkey to be 4 million, but now our
new expectation has increased to 5 million, making Turkey the first
holiday destination for Germans.

* Director of Center for Studies on Turkey

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