BERLIN — A year ago, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey told Germans of Turkish origin not to vote for Chancellor Angela Merkel, branding her governing coalition “enemies of Turkey.”
On Thursday, Mr. Erdogan is arriving in Berlin for a full state visit, complete with military honors, a state banquet and a lunch with Ms. Merkel.
The rapprochement is striking and no coincidence: With Turkey suffering the aftershocks of its worst economic crisis in 15 years, Mr. Erdogan has radically changed tune and toned down his anti-Western rhetoric.
“We want to completely leave behind all the problems and to create a warm environment between Turkey and Germany just like it used to be,” he said earlier this week.
For Germany, the aim of this week’s state visit in Berlin, officials say, is to normalize prickly relations with an important NATO partner on Europe’s southeastern flank. For Turkey, indirectly, one goal is to repair relations with the United States, which imposed sanctions this summer over the continued detention of an American pastor.
But the visit has also underscored that, like him or not, Europe has to deal with Mr. Erdogan and the reality of a budding dictator on its border. Turkey’s stability — both economic and geopolitical — remains a strategic priority for Germany and Europe.
It is a tough pill, and the realities surrounding the divergent trajectories of the two leaders only make it harder to swallow.
Fifteen years in power already, Mr. Erdogan, his country’s economic troubles notwithstanding, is secure since his re-election in June to a newly expanded presidency that has given him sultan-like powers. Ms. Merkel, now in her 13th year as chancellor and increasingly weakened at home and abroad, is considered a lame duck.
Absent a common understanding on democratic necessities, the relationship is increasingly transactional, even as the two nations remain intimately entwined, as Germany is home to about 3 million people with roots in Turkey.
What Mr. Erdogan needs is economic buttressing, and what Ms. Merkel needs is for Turkey to remain economically stable and for the Turkish leader to continue to stem the tide of refugees and migrants that pass through his country from war-torn nations — be they Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan — an issue that has become the chancellor’s Achilles’ heel.
Mr. Erdogan’s economy is teetering. The Turkish lira has come under heavy pressure — losing nearly 40 percent of its value this year — amid high inflation and spiraling foreign debt. Turkish private sector debt amounts to more than $ 200 billion, and as the lira has fallen in value Turkish companies have struggled to meet payments.
If he is not quite coming to Germany chastened, with cap in hand, Mr. Erdogan is certainly looking to reassure financial markets, improve business ties and seek political support.
It is a relatively steep climb-down for Mr. Erdogan. Relations with Germany hit rock-bottom last year with weeks of acrimonious sniping, as senior officials on both sides leveled accusations ranging from blackmail and hostage-taking to using Nazi tactics and abetting terrorism. Turkish newspapers branded German foundations and journalists as spies.
Exasperated with Mr. Erdogan’s jibes, and detentions of German citizens and threats to a list of its businesses in Turkey, Germany last summer announced a policy change that curtailed European economic assistance to Turkey.
Analysts say the policy has worked, though Turkish officials insist the mood has calmed because German and Turkish elections are now out of the way.
“That’s the language that Erdogan understands — but you have to be willing to speak it,” said Cem Özdemir, a prominent Turkish-German lawmaker and member of the Green Party who has been a vocal critic both of Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian politics and Germany’s longtime caution in countering it.
As prime minister, Mr. Erdogan had visited Germany several times in recent years. But the three-day visit this week is his first full-blown state visit as president.
The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose role is largely ceremonial, had extended the invitation after Mr. Erdogan won elections in June, prompting a wave of criticism.
Ms. Merkel will attempt to make the best of it, but she is conspicuously not attending the state dinner, even as the chancellery insists the snub is not a breach of protocol
Several German lawmakers have said they would boycott proceedings by not attending the banquet as well, and by taking part in protests instead.
Bijan Djir-Sarai, the foreign policy speaker of the Free Democrats, said he could not dine with Mr. Erdogan “while German citizens sit in Turkish prisons.”
Several protests are planned for Saturday, when Mr. Erdogan is scheduled to open the new central mosque of the Cologne-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, or Ditib, one of Germany’s largest Islamic organizations. It is financed by the Turkish government and is suspected of disseminating pro-Erdogan propaganda.
The visit comes after a recent confidence building trip by the Turkish finance minister, Berat Albayrak — Mr. Erdogan’s son-in-law and close adviser — who sent the right messages about fiscal stability, raising interest rates and curbing expenditure.
“Very positive developments may happen soon and that will bring positive outcomes in the economy,” Cemil Ertem, Mr. Erdogan’s chief economic adviser, predicted of the German visits in the daily newspaper Milliyet Tuesday.
Turkish analysts, too, noted that there has been a sudden improvement in German-Turkish relations in the last two months, including the release of Germans imprisoned under Mr. Erdogan’s crackdown against political opponents and critics.
Germany’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Adebahr, said another German citizen had been released on Sept. 20, bringing the number of arrested Germans down to five.
Turkey’s relations with the United States have worsened over the detention of the American pastor Andrew Brunson and a dozen other Turkish-Americans and consular employees. President Trump announced sanctions against Turkey early this summer, precipitating the plunge of the lira.
Though it has taken its own tough line against Turkey, Germany voiced support for Ankara, in part fearful of the effects of a teetering Turkish economy on Europe.
Still, “Germany will not and cannot bail out Turkey,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara director for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a research organization.
There is little chance of reinvigorating Turkey’s accession process to European Union membership. That demands unanimity among European Union members and Turkey’s backsliding on democratic standards has gone too far for European leaders to overlook it, he said.
But Germany can offer political support at a critical time. “Turkey seeks German support in fixing its relationship with the United States and fixing its economy,” Mr. Unluhisarcikli said.
Both sides also have an interest in continuing, or reinforcing, an agreement under which Turkey has curbed the flow of refugees through Turkey into Europe. The arrival of more than one million migrants into Germany since 2015 continues to reverberate politically.
Despite its differences with Turkey, Germany has no interest in seeing the Turkish economy slide. German companies have also suffered from the downturn in the Turkish economy and the fall of the lira.
“We have no interest in the situation in Turkey escalating,” said Mr. Özdemir, the Turkish-German lawmaker, who is attending the banquet with Mr. Erdogan, who, as he put it, would have to “suffer him.”
“You can’t always choose your guests,” he said. “The Erdogans and Putins and Trumps of this world are a reality and we have to talk to them.”
“But it’s important that we get more out of this visit than nice pictures,” he said. “Erdogan wants money. We need to be clear what we want: democracy, human rights, press freedom and no interference into the German-Turkish community in Germany.”
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting.
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