Turkey, Germany vows to boost trade as tensions ease

Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci meets German counterpart, says stronger economic ties will help resolve political disputes

Turkey and Germany pledged on Monday to set aside political tensions and work on further developing economic and trade ties.

Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci told a joint news conference with his German counterpart Brigitte Zypries the two countries saw huge potential in deeper economic cooperation.

“I personally believe that achieving stronger economic relations between Turkey and Germany, with a more solid base and a comprehensive structure, will also become an important instrument for the solution of existing problems,” he said.

Zypries said Germany was also eager to enhance economic and trade ties with Turkey, and maintain closer dialogue to discuss political differences.

“It is always better to talk to each other, instead of talking about each other,” she said.

“I strongly believe that our meeting today is the first step towards a constructive and a fact-oriented dialogue,” Zypries added.

The German minister underlined the importance of the rule of law and a secure legal environment for enhancing economic ties and expanding foreign direct investment in Turkey.

Zeybekci was the first Turkish minister to visit Berlin after Turkey’s April 16 referendum, which had strained ties between Ankara and European capitals.

Ahead of the referendum, several European institutions raised concerns, arguing that a transition to a presidential system would weaken the independence of Turkey’s judiciary plus other checks and balances necessary in a democratic system.

Ankara had sharply criticized its European partners, accusing them of taking sides in the referendum and interfering in Turkey’s internal affairs.

Tensions reached a peak when German authorities banned planned meetings of Turkish ministers with representatives of the three-million-strong Turkish community in Germany ahead of the referendum.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had compared the bans with Nazi-era practices.

After more than 50 percent of Turkish citizens voted Yes for the presidential system, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to smooth over weeks of tension, calling for “constructive dialogue” between the EU and Turkey.

Zeybekci reaffirmed on Monday that Turkey remains committed to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and also said Ankara was ready for discussions with its European partners on these issues.

However, he underlined the difficulties Turkey had faced after the foiled July 15 coup attempt last year, and criticized the EU’s failure to show strong solidarity with Ankara after the plot.

During Zeybekci’s visit on Monday, Turkish and German delegations agreed to step up preparations for the first Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO) meeting between two countries, a major annual gathering which would bring together senior representatives of business sectors from both countries.

The delegations also agreed to gather a Turkish-German Energy Forum in the first half of this year.

The EU heavyweight Germany is Turkey’s main economic and trade partner. In 2016, the bilateral trade volume exceeded €37 billion, and German foreign direct investments reached €13 billion. Nearly 7,000 German companies are currently active in Turkey.