Berlin pushing forth with Turkish railway project despite tensions – analysis

14 September 2018
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Berlin is pushing forward with a deal with Ankara to modernize Turkey’s railways, but faces criticism for its plans to help finance the country’s multibillion-euro project, German Spiegel news site reported.

Sultan Abdulhamid II reached an agreement in 1898 with German Emperor Wilhelm II to launch a vast railway project and 140 years later, Germany and Turkey, which mired deeply in a financial and currency crisis, are looking to complete another gigantic railway project, the article recalled.

Around three months ago, envoys from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan contacted the German government to discuss the plan, Spiegel noted, highlighting the new high-speed lines throughout the country, to be taken on by a consortium led by Siemens, is a 35 billion euro deal.

‘’If the project comes to fruition, it would be the most striking evidence yet of the spectacular diplomatic turnaround that German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tried to push forward during his visit to Turkey last week,’’ Spiegel said. ‘’Just over a year ago, the German government moved to impose sanctions on the NATO partner.’’

Long gone are the days of the German government criticizing Turkey for encroaching on human rights or flaunting democratic values, the article pointed out, with the German government more concerned about the ‘’breathtaking collapse of the Turkish lira than about human rights and freedom of expression.’’

The railway project, the news site noted, is a further indication of the new course being pursued by German foreign policy. Beyond being a way to contain populist leaders in Moscow and Washington, it is a move ‘’slow the Chinese, who have been expanding their global influence for years in the form of billions in investments in Africa.’’

For human rights organizations and opposition activists in Turkey, it has been shocking how unhesitatingly the German government has supported Turkish president during the financial crisis which has witnessed the Turkish lira lose 40 percent value since the beginning of the year

“It appears that economic interests obviously count for Germany more than human rights,” Spiegel quoted Gülseren Yoleri of the Human Rights Association (IHD) based in Turkey as saying.

The German government, for its part, is hoping the railway project can help restore the German business community’s confidence in Turkey, Spiegel noted; however, at this time, Spiegel pointed out, neither the German government nor Siemens wants to comment officially on the project.

At the end of the month, a high-ranking official in Altmaier’s Economics Ministry, Thomas Bareiss, is expected to push the initiative forward in further talks in Turkey.

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