Opinion: German-Turkish crisis of confidence | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.04.2013
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Opinion: German-Turkish crisis of confidence

German authorities are not fighting rightwing extremists vigorously enough, says DW's Baha Güngör.

With the NSU trial about to start, the accusation that Germany isn't doing enough against right-wing extremism is gaining momentum in Turkey. That is a dangerous dynamic, warns Baha Güngör.

There's a growing crisis of confidence between Germany and Turkey, and between Germans and Turks. Were neo-Nazis responsible for the fires in buildings primarily occupied by Turkish residents? Are German authorities intentionally excluding arson to protect right-wing lunatics? Did the Munich court plan to exclude Turkish media from the NSU trial? This endless chain of provocative questions has caused a variety of people - not all of them competent - to share their subjective answers with the public. And that in turn set off another wave of accusations and embitterment.

Portrait of Baha Güngör. (Photo: DW)

Baha Güngör heads DW's Turkish department

The German public has to accept the reactions by Turks here in Almanya and government officials in Turkey. The pain still stings, the families of the eight Turks and one Greek who were killed by the terror group NSU are still traumatized. The investigating authorities -including the highest ranking government offices on the federal and state level - had excluded a possible neo-Nazi connection to the killings for years, ignored clues, shredded files and suspected that the victims had fallen prey to their own criminal connections. These "mishaps," as they've been flippantly termed, should not occur in a country that respects the rule of law like Germany, and they have contributed significantly to the tensions in the German-Turkish relationship.

A modest response

But especially high-ranking Turkish migrant representatives should steer clear of accusing German investigators and politicians of belittling fires that kill immigrants. Germany does have a neo-Nazi problem, and polls show that it must be taken a lot more seriously than it has been so far. There are many attacks on mosques, homes and facilities for migrants that don't make their way to the public's eye, that don't have any victims and that are quickly filed away. Statistics also show, however, that around 200,000 fires kill almost 500 people a year in Germany. Surely, not all of these fires are caused by arson.

It's understandable that Turkish government officials feel compelled to take care of their fellow countrymen in Germany. When Germans get into trouble in Turkey, it goes without question that German politicians come to their aid. But such initiatives should not overshoot the aim. The attempt to influence the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary cannot be tolerated by either side.

Court could ease the tensions

The Munich court has rejected every suggestion made regarding granting seats to Turkish journalists for the neo-Nazi trial, which begins on April 17. That might be formally correct, but it shows about as much tact as a bull in a china shop. Who can blame the Turkish media for wondering whether a German court would be just as incompliant if the victims were Polish, British, Russian or even Jewish?

That's why concessions by the Munich court would be a starting point in easing the tensions in the current crisis of confidence. The next step would have to be taken by politicians and media from both countries: they need to stop their aggressive arguments that just hurt the people on the Turkish as well as on the German side. But only German security and judiciary officials can ease the tensions for good. They have promised to investigate all possible leads, and to be open for any outcomes. In the end, they have to present convincing results on how the fires originated that killed many immigrants. Any attempt to belittle or mollify would be a fatal encouragement for the arsonists to plan more attacks.

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