The new German coalition is expected to be a lot tougher on Turkey than Angela Merkel’s government was, especially where human rights are concerned.
It is most likely that there will be a period of tension between Berlin and Ankara, which may affect the European Union’s relationship with Turkey. However, it would be mistaken to believe that this would automatically benefit Greece. Germany and Turkey will always seek a mutually beneficial relationship. Also, a policy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” is shortsighted. The important issue is that if Berlin is to determine its relationship with other countries on the basis of the principles expressed in the new coalition’s program, then this is a challenge for all European Union member-states and other countries. It is also an opportunity for Athens.
The 177-page program of the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Liberals stresses the duty to protect refugees which stems from the German constitution, the Geneva Convention on refugees, the European Convention on Human Rights and on EU principles. It says that the parties want to end acts of illegal rejections and suffering at external EU borders. It refers to an obligation not to allow people to drown and not to allow anyone to obstruct their rescue. It states that organizations that defend human rights must be strengthened and protected, including when they are prosecuted. The agreement also demands support for minority rights at the international level and especially inside the EU.
The new government will focus on human rights issues not only because two of its three members have a traditional sensitivity to them, but also because they will want to show their voters that compromising to work with the Free Liberals will not affect this dimension of their policy.
Greece’s government and public opinion should be aware that reports of “pushbacks” in the Aegean and the prosecution of members of NGO rescue teams have gained great publicity in Germany. A spirit of cooperation between Athens and Berlin on such issues, based on common humanitarian principles, would strengthen Greece’s position at every level.