German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Aug. 29 at a Berlin press conference that she wanted to have better relations with Turkey, but the relationship between Berlin and Ankara was currently at “a very complicated phase.”
“I would very much like having better relations, but we have to face reality … It’s a very complicated phase in our relations,” she said.
Merkel said there could be no progress even in trade relations with Turkey if the rule of law was not guaranteed in the country. Good ties are “linked to respect for the rule of law and this isn’t guaranteed right now in Turkey,” she said.
Merkel also reiterated Germany’s demand that Turkey free from custody journalists and rights workers, including Die Welt daily correspondent Deniz Yücel.
“Our demand is very clear: That the people who have been arrested there are released,” she said.
Yücel, a German-Turkish dual national, was arrested on Feb. 27 on charges of “making propaganda in support of a terrorist organization” and “inciting the public to violence,” after first being detained on Feb. 14.
Yücel, who faces up to 10.5 years in jail if convicted, denies the charges.
The German government has demanded Yücel’s swift release, as well as the release of other German citizens detained in Turkey.
Merkel told members of her Christian Democratic Union at a previous rally in northern Germany that her government would “do everything in its power” to secure Yücel’s release. Independent journalism is a basic pillar of democracy that can “never be questioned, even when it is uncomfortable,” she had said.
Merkel also touched on the European Commission’s recent criticism of EU member Poland over judicial reforms, saying she took the Commission’s criticism of Poland “very seriously” and would discuss the issue with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Aug. 30.
“The issue of the rule of law in Poland is a serious issue because the requirements for cooperation within the European Union are the principles of the rule of law. I take what the [European] Commission says on this very seriously. Tomorrow [European Commission President] Jean-Claude Juncker will come to Germany and of course I’ll talk about it with him in detail. I take it very seriously … We cannot simply hold our tongues and not say anything for the sake of peace and quiet,” Merkel stated.