From 11 to 13 February Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, visited Turkey for the third time within the space of a year. An animated exchange of views took place during talks with members of the Turkish Government, the Parliament and civil society representatives in Ankara and Istanbul. In discussions with his opposite number Volkan Bokzir Roth talked about intensifying dialogue between Turkey and its European partners.
The German Embassy in Ankara was the first port of call for the Minister of State. During a visit to the visa section Roth gained a first‑hand impression of the work of its staff, who are currently facing particular challenges due to a significant rise in the number of visa applications, including many from Syrian refugees. The Minister of State for Europe was accompanied by Michelle Müntefering, Chairperson of the German‑Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Group.
An EU perspective for Turkey
During a meeting with his opposite number, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Volkan Bokzir, Roth discussed intensifying dialogue between Turkey and its European partners still further. In this context the German Minister of State for Europe once again advocated opening chapters 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security) of the EU accession negotiations. He commented as follows:
I am convinced that giving Turkey an EU perspective is in our mutual interest. We all need a united, peaceful and economically sound Europe.
Roth also expressed his support for greater freedom of travel between Turkey and the EU.
Insights into the diversity of Turkish society
In further talks with members of parliament and Turkish Minister for Youth and Sports Çağatay Kiliç, who was born in Germany, Roth was able to discuss the current status of bilateral relations.
Following his meetings with civil society representatives, students of Islamic theology and journalists from the independent online platform P24, Roth was clearly impressed by the frankness of the discussions:
A vibrant democracy thrives on interaction, freedom of expression, tolerance, respect and above all, critical dialogue among equals. The differing views I have heard during my talks have – once again – revealed to me new facets of a diverse Turkish society.