12 Feb 2008

Cologne's Turkish Spectacle: Erdogan's One-Man Show

Erdogan begins his speech -- which won't be translated into German -- with flowery words. "The Turkish people are a people of friendship and tolerance," he says. "Wherever they go, they only bring love and joy." What he means is: Don't bring any shame on us, and stay calm.

Erdogan goes on to list the efforts that his government has made to push forward the German investigation into the Ludwigshafen blaze. But he doesn't try to make the incident any less painful. "Hopefully we'll never have to experience such pain again," he says at the close of this part of his speech.

The prime minister goes on to address the integration of Turks in Germany. "I understand that you are sensitive about the issue of assimilation," Erdogan says. "No one can demand that from you." Assimilation -- in other words, conforming to German culture -- is a catchword that Turkish immigrants associate with their fear of losing their national identity. Erdogan does not repeat the controversial demand he made to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (more...) on Friday, when he called for the founding of Turkish-language educational institutions in Germany. Today, he only says: "It is your natural right to teach your children their mother tongue."

During his long speech, Erdogan plays the integration card as he sees fit. He makes conciliatory noises, but he stops short of making a plea for assimilation. Although much remains vague, at times he takes a pragmatic tone. "Take advantage of Germany's educational institutions," he says. "It's a disadvantage if you don't speak the language of the country." Nevertheless, his speech, in which the phrases "we Turks" and "the Germans" appear again and again, does deliver a clear message: You may live in Germany, but you are Turks -- and I am your prime minister

Cologne's Turkish Spectacle: Erdogan's One-Man Show - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News