[Or is it a rewarmed love-affair between old wannabe-global-masters…Berlin and Ankara?]
By Peter Spiegel
March 31, 2016
When Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, shows up for a summit in Washington today, he’ll get something of a cold shoulder. Instead of a one-on-one with President Barack Obama, as Ankara requested, Mr Erdogan will instead be granted an audience with Joe Biden, the vice-president. The White House has tried to explain away the apparent snub as a factor of the 50-odd leaders who are descending on Washington for the gathering on nuclear security. But it is being seen in some quarters as a sign of strain in relations with the US over media freedom and Mr Erdogan’s aggressive military campaign against Kurds
There have been no such outwards signs of squeamishness in Europe, however, where all 28 EU leaders have had three separate summits with Mr Erdogan’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, to persuade him to stem the influx of migrants pouring into Europe from Turkey. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, went so far as to fly to Istanbul on the eve of Turkish elections to be photographed sitting in twin thrones with Mr Erdogan.
Which all makes the new diplomatic dust-up between European governments and Ankara all the more awkward. Yesterday, both Germany and the EU were forced to reiterate their support for a free press and free expression after Ankara summoned Germany’s ambassador to complain about a satirical video shown on German public broadcaster ARD that depicted Mr Erdogan as a dictator rounding up journalists and bombing Kurds. That diplomatic outburst came hot on the heels of an angry denunciation of EU envoys’ presence at an Istanbul trial of two prominent Turkish journalists charged with espionage.
Yesterday’s statements in support for a free press by the European Commission and the German foreign ministry came only after criticism in Germany that Berlin had not taken a stronger stance in ARD’s defence. Ms Merkel has staked her political survival on the EU’s €6bn deal with Ankara, which is predicated on Turkey taking back tens of thousands of refugees from Europe in exchange for aid and other goodies, like a new visa-free travel regime. That may very well explain why the White House feels more comfortable snubbing Mr Erdogan than Europe does.