The human factor
Germany and Turkey enjoy exceptionally intensive and wide-ranging relations stretching back over centuries.
The approximately three million people of Turkish descent living in Germany, around half of whom have German citizenship, are an important factor in bilateral relations. There is broad coverage of Germany, the situation of the Turkish community there and Germany’s position on all issues relating to Turkey in the Turkish media. The major Turkish dailies publish special editions in Germany and Europe, some of them with large circulations. Turkish associations and individuals of Turkish descent are closely involved in German Government initiatives, such as the Integration Summit and the German Islam Conference. The Nationality Act of 1999 opened up new legal opportunities for many Turks living in Germany.
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 the political level. In 2013, a Strategic Dialogue was launched at Foreign Minister level. It includes annual meetings between the two Foreign Ministers and the establishment 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 Turkey’s then Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoǧlu agreed to hold biennial intergovernmental consultations, which took place for the first time on 22 January 2016 in Berlin.
In the past, this foundation has enabled both countries to engage in constructive cooperation. Since early 2016, however, relations between Germany and Turkey have increasingly come under pressure. Recent points of contention in the bilateral relationship have included the German Bundestag’s resolution of June 2016 on Armenia, differences over visits by Members of the Bundestag to German troops stationed in Turkey, appearances by Turkish politicians in Germany and in particular the increasing number of detentions of German nationals on unclear grounds and for an unspecified duration.
In 1999, under Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the course was set for Turkey’s EU candidacy. The German Government sees Turkey’s accession negotiations, which began in 2005, as an open‑ended process.
The intensive bilateral relations are also reflected in frequent two‑way visits at the highest political level. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel’s most recent visit to Turkey was on 2 February 2017. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last visited the country in September 2018 and the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, held official talks there in October 2018. President Recep Erdoğan paid a state visit to Germany in September 2018.
Germany is Turkey’s most important trading partner. Between January and October 2018, bilateral trade declined for economic reasons by three percent compared with the previous year. As a result, the total figure for 2018 will be less than the record amount of 37.6 billion euros in 2017. In the first ten months of 2018, Turkish exports to Germany rose by 1.8 percent compared with 2017 to 13.8 billion euros, while imports from Germany fell by 6.7 percent to 16.6 billion euros.
With total investments of over 14 billion US dollars since 1980, Germany is the second largest foreign investor in Turkey after the Netherlands. The number of both German and Turkish companies in Turkey that have received German equity investment has now risen to almost 7320. Entrepreneurs of Turkish descent employ some 500,000 people in Germany and generate an annual turnover of approximately 50 billion euros.
Between January and November 2018, the number of foreign tourists in Turkey rose by over 22 percent, significantly exceeding the previous record number in 2014. Following downturns in the previous two years, the number of German tourists rose by 25.6 percent to 4.3 million in 2018. In terms of visitor numbers, Germany ranked second after Russia, accounting for 11.6 percent of the total, compared with 15.6 percent for Russia (5.9 million visitors).
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 was founded in Cologne in 2004. Its main office has been in Berlin since 2012, with a branch office in Cologne.
Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, visited Turkey with a large business delegation in October 2018. He and the Turkish Energy Minister co‑chaired the first meeting of the Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO) and the second meeting of the German‑Turkish Energy Forum, which was set up as a forum for dialogue on energy issues between policymakers and business people from the two countries.
Development, environmental and humanitarian cooperation
KfW Entwicklungsbank (KfW development bank), acting on behalf of the German Government, has made available extensive promotional loans, especially in the fields of municipal infrastructure, renewable energies, energy efficiency, financial sector development and support for SMEs.
In addition to the assistance it provides via the EU, the German Government is also helping Turkey to cope with the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis via bilateral measures. Since 2012, the Federal Foreign Office has provided a total of 181 million euros in humanitarian aid to assist relief efforts for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The aid is mainly provided in the form of vouchers to cover the basic needs – food, shelter and healthcare – of particularly vulnerable refugees. Since 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has provided approximately 350 million euros to fund projects that benefit Syrian refugees and the host communities. Measures to provide schooling and vocational training and to create jobs in order to give refugees living in Turkey prospects for the future and to ease the burden on the Turkish host communities are a priority.
Cultural exchange and scientific and academic relations
Scope for the press, the opposition and civil society in Turkey has been increasingly curtailed. The Tarabya Cultural Academy, the German‑Turkish Youth Bridge and the Turkish‑German University are lighthouse projects with Turkey in Germany’s cultural relations and education policy.
The Tarabya Cultural Academy is a residency programme for artists. Since September 2012, 77 artists have spent several months on the grounds of the former summer residence of the German Ambassador in Tarabya. Foreign Minister Maas opened the first exhibition by alumni of the Academy in Berlin in November 2018. The German‑Turkish Youth Bridge was founded by Stiftung Mercator in 2012 with the aim of strengthening bilateral youth exchange. The Federal Foreign Office helps to fund its project activities. The measures conducted by the German‑Turkish Youth Bridge make an important contribution to civil society exchange between Turkey and Germany.
The Turkish-German University in Istanbul, whose foundation stone 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 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, including Professor Philipp Schwartz, after whom the Philipp Schwartz Initiative is named. The Initiative was established in 2015 by the Federal Foreign Office and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to support scholars at risk around the world.
In 2016, the DAAD helped Turkish students to study in Germany and vice versa by providing funding to more than 2900 people. However, the number of German Erasmus students in Turkey has declined significantly since 2016, with domestic political developments appearing to be a major factor in this decrease.
The Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir branches of the Goethe‑Institut offer a wide range of cultural programmes, thus furthering intercultural exchange in all areas while becoming increasingly active throughout the country. They promote German as a foreign language by offering language courses and further‑training seminars for Turkish teachers of German throughout Turkey. There are six German schools in Turkey, two of which, both located in Istanbul, rank among the country’s leading schools. Foreign Minister Maas and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited the German School Istanbul/Özel Alman Lisesi in September 2018 on the 150th anniversary of its foundation.
The German Archaeological Institute opened its Istanbul Department as far back as 1929. It conducts research projects on subjects ranging from the prehistory of Asia Minor to the Ottoman period.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.