Erdogan and Merkel spar ahead of Turkey visit

29.03.10 @ 09:25

  1. By Honor Mahony
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The integration of the three million Turkish nationals in Germany has once again emerged as a source of discord between Berlin and Ankara ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Turkey today (29 March).

  • Ms Merkel and Mr Erdogan have clashed over how best to integrate Turks living in Germany before (Photo: REGIERUNGonline)

Due for her first visit to the country in four years, Ms Merkel and her Anatolian counterpart have engaged in a familiar exchange of barbs concerning the role of Turkish citizens in German society.

Ahead of the trip, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that secondary schools for the children of Turkish immigrants should be set up while Germany should also allow dual citizenship.

Ms Merkel responded via her weekly video message with a clear refusal of the demands. She said that integration into German society does not mean "assimilation" or "giving up the home country." Migrants should share in a successful society through work and family life.

She added: "That of course means learning the German language and abiding by German laws."

The exchange - a similar one was held in 2008 around the time Mr Erdogan was visiting Berlin - comes against the backdrop of Turkey's bid for EU membership.

Germany is opposed to Ankara's full membership of the EU. Turkey, which formally opened the by now painfully slow EU membership negotiations in 2005, has responded by becoming increasingly assertive in its own backyard, including loudly criticising Israel's activities.

Among the topics likely to be brought up include possible sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programme. While Ms Merkel favours sanctions, Mr Erdorgan, whose country currently is sitting in the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member, is against further sanctions, arguing instead for a diplomatic solution.

Meanwhile, Spiegel Online reports that Ms Merkel wants to raise the issue of Armenia and the ongoing dispute over whether mass killings of Armenians during the First World War amounted to genocide. Turkey says that the 1915 massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was does not warrant the moniker, something Mr Erdogan repeated in the latest edition of German news weekly Der Spiegel.

While political tensions between the two countries are running high, they remain closely linked on the business front. Turkey remains one of the most important export markets for the German economy. This has meant that leading business organisations in Germany have approached the whole question of Turkish EU membership with a more conciliatory and pragmatic tone than can be heard at the political level.