Turkey’s prime minister wasn’t in the mood to make nice. Hours before he would be flashing a thin smile at a photo op with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Wednesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped by the offices of Germany’s Bild newspaper to boldly criticize her in an interview. Erdogan blasted Merkel for her government’s immigration policies in a well-timed attack: the pair met at a ceremony marking 50 years since 650,000 Turkish “guest workers” arrived in Germany as part of a labour pact. Today, 2.5 million people in Germany have Turkish roots, though barely a third are citizens.
“German politicians do not give enough recognition to the integration” of these Turks, Erdogan told Bild, pointing to Germany’s resistance to dual citizenship, and saying it is failing to recognize Turks’ contributions. “The guest workers of yesterday are slowly becoming employers, academics, artists,” he said. This despite the fact that Turks, who make up the largest German minority, come last in measures of literacy, education and employment.
Erdogan also criticized Germany for giving only lukewarm support to Turkey’s bid to join the EU. With Turkey’s surging economy and Erdogan’s own growing influence, he can perhaps afford to ruffle a few feathers.