Germany’s population of Turkish immigrants represents the country’s largest ethnic group, a product of ties which have been woven together over the past four decades.
In 1961 a deal was signed to encourage temporary workers to come over and take up short term contracts. Within ten years many of those Turks had begun to put down roots, setting up home in Germany. In the booming years of the 1980s Turkish entrepreneurs set up their own companies. One of them was Hayati Onel. His printing firm was launched in 1982. Seven years later he was granted German citizenship. “For the more than 60,000 Turkish companies in Germany, Turkish accession to the European Union is really important. Medium sized comapanies from Turkey will invest in Europe and open up offices, just like Germany’s medium-sized companies are investing in Turkey,” he said. Germany is Turkey’s biggest trading partner. The strength of that business relationship is one of the reasons Gerhard Schroeder used to argue for Turkish membership of the European Union. “For 40 years Turkey has been told time and again by German governments that it has the chance of accession. The expectations that these remarks have made must not be crushed. Turkish membership is in Europe and Germany’s geo-political interest and in Germany’s national interest,” he said in 2003. But Schroeder’s era is over. During the German election campaign the conservative CDU of Angela Merkel campaigned against Ankara’s aim of becoming part of the union. She told supporters: “Europe can’t be without borders. That’s why we believe that we shouldn’t promise full membership to Turkey, but offer a privileged partnership instead.” It is not the message that people of Turkish origin want to hear. However few analysts predict a drastic change in policy, especially as the German foreign ministry is expected to stay in the hands of the Social Democrats.