While saying that Erdogan is welcome in the country, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert cited the sensitive timing of the visit immediately before European Parliamentary elections and amid “very controversial” issues in Turkish domestic politics. Erdogan, who was criticized by European leaders for cracking down on dissent in Turkey, may speak at a rally in the western German city of Cologne on May 24.
“The German government expects Prime Minister Erdogan to show a sense of responsibility and sensitivity at this appearance,” Seibert told reporters in Berlin today. Any speech should take into account the “good co-existence” of Turks in Germany, he said.
Erdogan is scheduled to speak at Cologne’s Lanxess Arena the day before the European elections, according to the venue website. Germany has an estimated 3 million residents of Turkish descent, according to 2012 census data, and Erdogan has previously addressed rallies in German cities that have large Turkish communities including Berlin. Turkey holds presidential elections in August, for which Turks living abroad can vote.
Andreas Scheuer, the general secretary of Merkel’s Christian Social Union Bavarian sister party, called on Erdogan to cancel the rally, saying that holding “such a tribute” to him before the European elections “is unacceptable in my view,” according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Relations between Germany and Turkey, already strained over Merkel’s opposition to Turkish membership of the European Union, suffered a further hiccup last month when Erdogan lashed out at German President Joachim Gauck for commenting on Turkish domestic matters.
Gauck used an appearance during a visit to Ankara to criticize the Turkish government’s crackdown on street protests and moves to expand the power of its intelligence agencies, prompting Erdogan to tell lawmakers that “it looks like Gauck still sees himself as a priest,” and advising Gauck to “keep your advice to yourself.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, speaking separately to reporters in Berlin today, defended Gauck’s statements in Ankara while saying that he expects Erdogan’s rally to conform with “international standards.”
“I think our democracy can withstand it if Mr. Erdogan addresses his countrymen in Germany,” Steinmeier said.
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