German-Turkish relations have a unique history going back centuries. Yet it is a combination of recent developments which are changing the equation between these two important countries. With a rising profile in its region, Turkey has been reassessing its options on the world stage. Turkey is placed strategically within a changing geopolitical framework that lies between Europe, Russia and the Middle East. It is a member of NATO with an enormous military infrastructure; it is included in the G20 club, while also a friend of Iran with whom it also competes for regional influence; it has a special, if currently tense, relationship with Israel, while also maintaining relations in Ramallah. As the largest land bridge in the world, it offers a stable platform for a nexus of water, oil and gas transit supplies from all and to all of the nations of the region in which it sits. And finally, Turkey offers itself as a model to the arc of the Arab states searching for a viable form of an Islamist democracy. However, that model comes with serious political and judicial flaws yet to be resolved
Germany, on the other hand, has evolved during the last two decades into the strongest economy in Europe with an enormous influence on the course of the European Union. In the last decade alone, Germany has been both the beneficiary and the champion of the euro. The current crisis of that currency will in no small measure be solved by Germany’s decision to save it. In doing so, the next phase of the European Union’s evolution as an integrating entity will be shaped significantly in Berlin as well as in Brussels. Germany’s leadership is not forged with an army of soldiers, but rather by a network of relationships and interlocking dependencies and institutions which it both helps craft and finance.
In both their respective regions, Turkey and Germany have sought to exercise influence as economic forces projecting soft power in multiple directions. Germany has been in an environment much to its great advantage, as it has been able to remain stable, peaceful and affluent. Turkey lives in a much more volatile neighborhood, bordering on a fragile Iraq with the explosive Kurdish issues unresolved on either side if the border; on Syria now engulfed in civil war that has left over one hundred thousand Syrian refugees in Turkish camps; and on Iran with which it has a highly complicated relationship. It also sits across from the Caucuses in which more unpredictability is located.
It is partly in light of that precarious neighborhood that many Germans see EU membership for Turkey as unrealistic. Others argue that what happens in Turkey is of direct importance to Europe, and to Germany in particular, and that EU membership is a useful tool with which Turkey can be guided in a positive direction − as it has been for other recent members of the EU. Those who reject that argument say that such an approach cannot overcome some of the barriers to Turkish conformity with the Acquis Communautaire. Critics also argue that a country like Turkey, which will top 100 million citizens by 2050, is a wholly different category than the smaller states seeking membership.