Last updated in June 2017

The human factor

Germany and Turkey enjoy exceptionally close and wide-ranging relations stretching back over centuries.

The nearly three million people of Turkish origin living in Germany – somewhat more than half of them with German citizenship – are an important factor in bilateral relations. Another factor is Turkey’s attractiveness as a tourist and holiday destination. Both factors strongly influence how Germans and Turks see each other.

In the Turkish media, there is broad coverage of Germany, the situation of the Turkish community there and Germany’s position on all issues relating to Turkey. The major Turkish dailies publish special editions in Germany and Europe, some of them with large circulations. And the Euro D TV channel has been broadcasting its Turkish-language programme from Germany throughout Europe for the past ten years. Many Turkish media (daily newspapers and TV channels) now produce special editions and programmes for Turkish speakers living in Germany.

Turkish associations and individuals of Turkish origin are closely involved in initiatives of the German Government, such as the Integration Summit and the German Islam Conference (DIK). Moreover, in Germany there are a growing number of people with Turkish roots who are making a lasting mark on German society through their engagement in the country’s cultural, economic and political life. In Turkey this is widely seen as an additional bond between the two countries. Also, the Nationality Act of 1999 opened up new legal possibilities for many Turks living in Germany.

The status of long-term German residents in Turkey (approximately 70,000, according to Turkish government figures) has continued to improve in recent years, but it is still not entirely satisfactory when it comes to residence and work permits, the right to acquire property, etc.

Political Relations

Germany has traditionally been held in high regard in Turkey. Relations between the two countries are wide-ranging and shaped by various formats for cooperation at political level. In May 2013, a Strategic Dialogue was launched at foreign minister level, which includes annual meetings between the two foreign ministers and the setting up of a number of working groups at the level of senior government officials to address issues such as bilateral relations, security policy, counter-terrorism, regional issues and Europe. In January 2015, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and then Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoǧlu agreed to hold biennial intergovernmental consultations, which took place for the first time on 22 January 2016 in Berlin.

This foundation has in the past enabled both countries to engage in constructive cooperation even on controversial issues, which recently have increasingly come to dominate bilateral discussions. Moreover, Germany observes with great concern the developments in the wake of the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.

In 1999, under Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the course was set for Turkey’s EU candidacy. Germany is particularly keen to bring Turkey closer to the European Union. Germany has therefore supported Turkey’s accession negotiations since they began in 2005. This is an open-ended process.

The intensive relations between the two countries are also reflected in frequent two-way visits at the highest political level. Federal Chancellor Merkel most recently visited Turkey on 2 February 2016. On 8 March 2017, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel in Germany. Foreign Minister Gabriel last visited Turkey on 5 June 2017. There are also regular contacts between German and Turkish Government representatives through bilateral meetings or at international conferences.

Economic Relations

Germany is Turkey’s most important trading partner. Bilateral trade between the two countries grew by 4 percent in 2016, reaching a new record of 37.3 billion euros. During the same period, Turkish exports to Germany increased year-on-year by 6.4 percent, to 15.4 billion euros, while Turkish imports from Germany fell year-on-year by 2 percent to 21.9 billion euros.

Germany is also the second biggest foreign investor in Turkey, after the Netherlands, with investments totalling more than 13.3 billion euros since 1980. The number of companies in Turkey, both German and Turkish, that have received German equity investment has now risen to more than 6800. The areas in which they are active range from industrial manufacturing and the marketing of all types of products to a diverse range of service offerings to retail and wholesale operations. In Germany, some 96,000 entrepreneurs of Turkish origin employ some 500,000 people and generate annual revenues of approximately 50 billion euros.

The downturn in the Turkish tourism sector resulted in an approximately 30 percent decline in the number of visitors to the country in 2016, with the number of visitors from Germany also falling. Nevertheless, Germans were again the largest group of visitors to Turkey in 2016, with 3.9 million German visitors travelling there during this period (compared with 5.58 million German visitors in 2015).  

Since 1985, the German business community in Turkey has been represented by a Delegate Office of German Industry and Commerce in Istanbul. In addition, the Turkish-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TD-IHK) was founded in Cologne in 2004. Since 2012, it has been domiciled in Berlin, with a branch office in Cologne.

An investment protection agreement between Germany and Turkey has been in place since as early as 1962. The Turkish law on international arbitration entered into force in July 2001. After the bilateral double taxation agreement of 1985 was terminated, a new double taxation agreement took effect retrospectively on 1 January 2011.

In November 2012, then Economics Minister Philipp Rösler and then Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz signed a joint declaration in which the two countries agreed to step up bilateral cooperation in the energy sector. The German-Turkish Energy Forum was established as a new framework for dialogue on energy matters between representatives of the two countries’ political and economic sectors and as a means to reach agreement on specific areas of cooperation and action. The first ministerial-level meeting within this framework was held in Ankara in April 2013.

In addition, the two countries’ economics ministries agreed to set up a Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO). The aim is to create a cross-sectoral platform that includes an annual meeting chaired by the two economics ministers.

Development, environmental and humanitarian cooperation

Bilateral development cooperation with Turkey, which began in 1959, was officially terminated in 2008. Over the decades, the cooperation had evolved into a successful model. Germany pledged a cumulative total of more than 4.5 billion euros under financial and technical cooperation. This assistance, which took the form of concessionary loans and grants, was used to conduct a total of more than 400 projects, a few of which are still running.

Although traditional development cooperation is being phased out, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is continuing cooperation with Turkey in selected innovative and forward-looking areas. For example, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), acting on behalf of the German Government, has made available extensive promotional loans, especially in the following areas: municipal infrastructure, renewable energy and energy efficiency, financial sector development and SME promotion.

The German Government is currently helping Turkey to deal with the consequences of the Syrian refugee crisis. In 2016, the Federal Foreign Office provided a total of 56 million euros in humanitarian aid to assist relief efforts for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The aid was provided mainly in the form of vouchers to cover the basic needs – food, shelter and health care – of particularly vulnerable refugees. In 2016, the BMZ contributed nearly 100 million euros to fund projects that benefit Syrian refugees and the host communities. A special priority are measures to provide schooling and vocational training and to create jobs so as to give the refugees living in Turkey prospects for the future and to ease the burden on the Turkish host communities.

Since 2007, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) has become an increasingly active cooperation partner of Turkey. The BMUB supports environmental and climate projects in the country, funded under its International Climate Initiative (ICI), which in turn is financed by the auctioning of emission allowances under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). In this area of cooperation, a particularly important role is played by the bilateral Environment Steering Committee, which meets once a year and comprises representatives of the two countries’ environment ministries.

Cultural exchange and scientific and academic relations

Outstanding projects with Turkey as part of Germany’s cultural relations and education policy are the Tarabya Cultural Academy, the German-Turkish Youth Bridge, the Tarabya Translation Prize and the Turkish-German University. The Tarabya Cultural Academy, which seeks to network German and Turkish cultural workers, was opened in 2011 at a ceremony attended by the two countries’ foreign ministers and represents a milestone in efforts to further intensify contacts between Germans and Turks. Since September 2012, every year around 15 scholarship holders complete months-long stays on the grounds of the German Ambassador’s historical summer residence in Tarabya. The German-Turkish Youth Bridge (DTJB) was established by Stiftung Mercator in 2012 with the aim of strengthening bilateral youth exchange. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended the official opening ceremony of the DTJB on 21 June 2014 in Istanbul. The measures conducted by the DTJB benefit some 1500 young people every year, thus making an important contribution to civil society exchange between Turkey and Germany.

The German-Turkish Tarabya Translation Prize has been awarded since 2010. The prize is awarded alternately by high-ranking officials of each country for translations from Turkish to German and vice versa. The prize is co-funded by the Federal Foreign Office, the Turkish Ministry of Culture und Tourism, the Goethe-Institut, the Yunus Emre Enstitüsü, the S. Fischer Foundation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The most recent award ceremony (for a German-Turkish translation) was held on 30 November 2015 at the Yunus Emre Enstitüsü in Berlin.

The Turkish-German University in Istanbul, the foundation stone of which was laid during then Federal President Christian Wulff’s state visit to Turkey on 22 October 2010, commenced operations in the 2013-2014 academic year and was officially opened in April 2014 by the German and Turkish Presidents. The university, which is also co-funded by the two countries, now has 535 students enrolled in five bachelor’s and three master’s programmes, and there are plans to introduce ten more study programmes by 2018. A consortium made up of 35 German higher education institutions and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is partnered with the Istanbul-based university.

The foundation for German-Turkish cooperation in higher education was laid in the 1930s and 1940s by professors seeking refuge in Turkey from the National Socialist regime. In Turkey, Germany enjoys a good reputation as a place to study and pursue research and there is a keen interest in university partnerships and research cooperation. In 2014-2015, it was thus possible to hold a joint German-Turkish Year of Science. The Higher Education Compass, an online information portal of the German Rectors’ Conference’s, currently lists 1200 cooperation agreements – most of them ERASMUS programmes – between German and Turkish universities (as of May 2016), and this number is rising. Overall, Germany is the second most popular study destination for Turkish students. In 2015, the DAAD promoted student mobility in both directions by providing funding to more than 3000 people.

The Ernst Reuter Initiative for Intercultural Dialogue and Understanding (ERI) was launched in September 2006 as a visible mark of friendship between Germany and Turkey. The initiative encompasses numerous projects in the areas of art, culture, media, youth exchange, science and academia, and integration.

The Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir branches of the Goethe-Institut offer a wide range of cultural programmes, thus making a contribution to intercultural exchange in all areas while also showing an increasing presence across the country. To promote German as a foreign language, they offer language courses and further-education seminars for Turkish teachers of German on a nationwide basis. On account of the close relations between the two countries, Turkey is a priority country with regard to promoting German. Accordingly, there is a long-term effort to promote the German language in Turkey through a comparatively strong presence of German intermediaries (the Central Agency for German Schools Abroad, the DAAD and the Goethe-Institut), through close cooperation with the Turkish Ministry of National Education, various higher education institutions and local school authorities as well as through a wide range of funding mechanisms.

The Orient-Institut Istanbul, an independent institute of the Max Weber Foundation, conducts research on Ottoman history and Turkish literature and linguistics.

The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) opened its Istanbul Department as early as 1929. It conducts research projects on subjects ranging from the prehistory of Asia Minor to the Ottoman period. The projects conducted by German archaeologists have been – and still are – of paramount importance for archaeological research in Turkey. DAI researchers are working at excavation sites such as Pergamon (Bergama) and Göbekli Tepe in collaboration with Turkish colleagues.In 2014, the German-Turkish Year of Science gave additional impetus to existing bilateral cooperation in science, research, technology and education, while also helping to extend cooperation to further areas and develop new models of cooperation.

share page:

About us

Entry & Residence

Foreign & European Policy