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Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Turkey: For a kebab on the Bosporus

Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Turkey: For a kebab on the Bosporus

In Istanbul, Frank-Walter Steinmeier honors the achievements of the former guest workers. They made Germany a “country with a migration background”. The difficult part of the journey is yet to come.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the first to speak of Fatma. Fatma, who once stood here as a young woman at Istanbul’s Sirkeci train station, “the suitcase between her trembling legs”, who, like hundreds of thousands of other young Turks, set off for distant Almanya as a result of the guest worker agreement. Since then, this train station has been “a symbol of the departure into the unknown”, of a journey at the end of which there was “homesickness, deprivation and exertion”, says Steinmeier.

The Federal President does not need to fear homesickness and deprivation on his trip to Turkey. It will still be strenuous. We had previously heard from the presidential office about a difficult journey in difficult times. That sounds like common clichés, but in this case the sentence simply describes reality. There is a reason why, in his seven years in office, there have always been more arguments against a trip to the Bosphorus than in favor of it. And this reason, above all, bears the name of the Turkish President: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

That is why it can, should and must be seen as a sign that the Federal President is not spending his first day in Turkey in the capital Ankara, but in the 16 million metropolis of Istanbul. This has to do with the Sirkeci train station, with the German immigrants and especially Turkish emigrants, who, together with their descendants, now number almost three million people who belong “at the heart of our society,” as Steinmeier says.

Steinmeier brought Christian Lindner with him – and a kebab skewer

“Germany is a country with a migration background” – and that’s exactly what he wants to remind people of now, shortly before the 75th anniversary of the Basic Law.

To underline this, he did not travel to Turkey alone. He has Aydan Özoğuz with him, the Vice-President of the Bundestag, and the CDU politician Serap Güler, the actor Adnan Maral (“Turkish for Beginners”), Mustafa Tonguc, who worked his way up from a temporary worker to the boss of DHL-Express without a school diploma – and a 60 kilo kebab skewer that has been causing quite a stir in the Turkish media for days. It was like taking a crate of “Efes” with you to the beer country of Almanya, they said.

Christian Lindner also came along. Traveling according to dictates, so to speak, after leaving a small catalog of demands to the traffic light partners in his capacity as FDP leader in Berlin at the weekend, he is now taking care of Turkish entrepreneurs who are suffering from multi-digit inflation rates in his capacity as finance minister.

Speaking of politics. Steinmeier also associates the start in Istanbul with a highly political sign. The Federal President was the first politician in the country to meet the mayor of the city in the historic train station restaurant. Ekrem İmamoğlu, who was impressively confirmed in office in the local elections in March, is now the greatest hope not only of his opposition CHP party. There are quite a few who believe that he could also pose a threat to the incumbent in the next presidential election in 2028.

“Whoever rules Istanbul, rules Turkey.”

Erdoğan probably understood the fence post hint without any further explanation. The Turkish president was mayor of the city for four years in the 1990s. His famous quote comes from this time: “Whoever rules Istanbul, rules Turkey.”

Steinmeier was able to see for himself on Monday that not all Turks find his policies completely wrong. He had barely finished the conversation with the mayor of Istanbul and stepped out onto the sunny, largely cordoned-off platform when loud shouts of “Murderer Germany” suddenly rang out. About two dozen Hamas sympathizers had gathered seemingly spontaneously at a neighboring track, now shouting: “Child murderer” and “Israel ally get out of Turkey.” It took long minutes for Turkish security forces to clear the squad aside.

Perhaps it was a small foretaste of the strenuous part of this journey. After the visit planned for tomorrow to the earthquake zone near the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, Steinmeier will meet his counterpart on Wednesday. Erdoğan, who has ruled the country longer than Steinmeier has lived in Bellevue Palace, has done so in a highly authoritarian manner since the failed coup in 2016. He suppresses freedom of the press and freedom of expression, hinders the opposition, and has human rights activists imprisoned.

The Turkish ruler has also played an unhelpful role in the Middle East crisis, attacking Israel’s government head-on and otherwise demonstratively siding with Hamas. Just last Saturday, Erdoğan met with Hamas boss Ismael Haniya in Istanbul, including the foreign minister and the head of the secret service.

So there are a few topics that the Federal President has to discuss with his Turkish colleague. Maybe it won’t be quite as loud as in Istanbul, but it will definitely be intense.

Source: Stern

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