After shepherding through a deal with Turkey over migrants and selling it to her constituents as Germany’s best bet for stemming the tide of refugees flowing into the country, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suffered setback after setback. The latest one? Allies and enemies alike are banding together to force through a symbolic vote explicitly naming Turkey’s massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians a genocide. Reuters:
Merkel’s conservatives, their junior coalition partner the Social Democrats and the opposition Greens are finalizing the wording of the largely symbolic resolution.
Conservative Franz Joseph Jung said the term “genocide” would be in both the headline and the text of the resolution.
“We want to contribute to reconciliation but I think we want to correctly describe a historic fact,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio on Tuesday, adding it was separate from the migrant deal.
After a comedian mocked the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a poem on television a few weeks back—calling him a pederast and a zoophile, among other things—Merkel visibly bowed to pressure from Ankara and instructed her state prosecutor to begin investigating the comic for violating obscure indecency statutes. German voters didn’t like it one bit, even though Merkel tried her darnedest to make excuses; she argued that her decision somehow amounted to support for judicial independence, even though it was her call alone to make whether to green-light the investigation. Her accompanying concerns about the precipitous decline of press freedom in Turkey, meant to make her sound as if she had a backbone, came off as mealy-mouthed when voiced amid such contortions.
Then, ever since Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stepped down earlier this month due to deteriorating relations with Erdogan, the atmosphere has only gotten more toxic. Davutoglu had been the “good cop” in the negotiations with Merkel and the EU; with him gone, so were the pleasantries. When Brussels demanded that Ankara reform its anti-terror laws as preconditions for Turks getting visa-free travel—all part of the agreed-upon deal—Erdogan was besides himself. “Since when are you controlling Turkey? Who gave you the order?” he thundered. He upped the ante soon after, demanding that the EU disburse the €3 billion refugee payment directly to Ankara, rather than through aid agencies as was originally agreed. In Europe, Donald Tusk took it upon himself to respond to Erdogan’s bluster. Merkel thus far has kept her head down.
The genocide resolution certainly won’t sit well with Ankara—and that appears to be precisely its point. German leaders had considered voting on a similar resolution last year, but had backed down in order to try to keep their options open with Turkey. Merkel’s domestic antagonists are now clearly looking to upset the applecart after their Chancellor has repeatedly failed to stand up to an increasingly colicky Erdogan.
Of course, as we noted the other day, even with all this tumult and froth, there is no real viable alternative to Merkel yet on the German political scene. And Merkel herself is nothing if not a survivor. If she’s quiet now, it’s because she hasn’t yet figured out how to position herself going forward. Will she pivot hard against Turkey in the coming days and weeks, and go with some sort of Plan B on the refugee crisis? Or is she hoping that all this sturm und drang is a temporary thing, something that just needs to just play itself out before Turkey and the EU can just go back to implementing her deal? From where we’re sitting, we wouldn’t bet on the latter. But maybe the good Chancellor knows something we don’t.