Visiting Turkey on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to accelerate visa-free travel for Turks and help Ankara stem refugee flows to Europe. Hilal Köylü in Ankara spoke to an expert about Merkel's visit.
During her trip to Istanbul where she met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (above) and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Merkel raised the question of how refugees fleeing the war in Syria could be kept in Turkey.
Merkel, who described the refugee issue as an "out of control crisis," emphasized that Turkey's EU accession process needed to be rejuvenated. Merkel said that new chapters in Turkey's EU membership talks could be opened and that Turkish citizens should be able to travel visa-free in Europe.
Could the Turkey-EU relationship, which has been frozen for the past four years, begin to thaw again? Can a real solution be found for the Syrian refugee problem? What will be changed by Merkel's visit?
In answering DW's questions, Professor Hüseyin Bagcı, Head of Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) International Relations department, said that Merkel's visit represents a period where "both sides have an extraordinary need of one another."
Merkel knowingly chose Istanbul
"Merkel acted very cautiously and instead of Ankara visited Istanbul. If she had gone to Ankara, it would have been a more comprehensive, official visit, but she knowingly chose Istanbul, sending the message to Erdogan and Davtoglu that 'this is an urgent matter, I came because of the refugee problem, I won't go into details regarding Turkey's domestic politics.'"
According to Bagcı, Merkel is trying to appease both German and Turkish public opinion with this message, adding that that Merkel could even face the risk of losing the 2017 elections primarily due to the Syrian refugee problem.
"Merkel is saying to her own public 'look, I'm trying' while telling the Turkish public 'I have no time to discuss your domestic politics at the moment' and she was successful in this. The visit will be heavily debated in Germany, but Merkel will sell it along the lines of 'I am trying to solve the migrant crisis and this is why I am forging an agreement with the Turks," Bagcı said.
"Erdogan and Davutoglu's main problem is - like Merkel's - domestic politics. In light of the election that will be held in Turkey in two weeks, the government in Ankara is framing Merkel's visit to the Turkish public as an expression of Germany's support. Erdogan is a very lucky politician: Merkel gave her word that she would pave the way for visa exemptions and the opening of new chapters in the EU negotiations. The Turkish government will not refrain from using this in the election campaign,” Bagcı stressed.