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Tough Turkey

September 19, 2011

During a day of meetings with various German officials, Turkish President Abdullah Gul has broached a number of touchy subjects between the two countries, but dialogue with his German counterpart has remained cordial.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul
Germany is home to about 2.5 million Turkish nationalsImage: AP

At the start of his four-day visit to Germany, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said his country will not be satisfied with anything less than full membership in the European Union.

"We are not going to give up this strategic objective," Gul said in Berlin on Monday after meeting with his German counterpart, Christian Wulff.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has favored a privileged partnership for Turkey in the past.

During his meeting with Wulff, a number of sensitive topics concerning German-Turkish relations were frankly addressed. However, both leaders made a point to emphasize the strong ties between the two countries. Gul said relations between the two countries were "extraordinarily good," while Wulff praised Gul as "a good friend of Germany."

In addition to expressing his desire to pick up the pace on stalled talks with the EU regarding membership, Gul called for visa restrictions for Turkish business travelers to be loosened to facilitate better economic relationships. Wulff lent his support to this idea and recommended that the government review these policies.

Learning the language

However, Wulff held his ground in the face of Gul's criticism of Germany's policy regarding a language test for people in Turkey who move to be with a spouse in Germany. Since 2007, anyone coming to Germany following marriage must pass a language test in order to be allowed to come. Gul said this clause was a violation of human rights.

Wulff said that while "no one wants assimilation," integration in German society was not possible without basic language skills.

Gul’s visit coincides with the 50th anniversary the 1961 Turkish-German labor recruitment agreement, which ushered in a large wave of Turkish guest workers to Germany.

Turkey's Finance Minister was also along for the trip and signed a new agreement with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble on double taxation that affects about 3.5 million Turks who have income taxable in both countries.

Bomb threat

Gul was scheduled to speak on the history of relations between Germany and Turkey on Monday evening at Berlin's Humboldt University, but had to cancel after an anonymous telephoned bomb threat to police.

Police asked the audience to leave the lecture hall and cordoned off the capital's main Unter den Linden street outside the building.

Several hundred Kurds had gathered outside to demonstrate for the release of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish Workers' Party.

Author: Matt Zuvela, Sarah Harman (dpa, dapd, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner