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Rough patch

Germany and Turkey are in a heated standoff that neither country can afford

Germany and Turkey are in a heated standoff that neither country can afford

This segment originally aired March 14, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO. 

Germany and Turkey are embroiled in a standoff that could have serious consequences for their complicated, co-dependent relationship. And with key elections right around the corner in both countries, neither can afford to back down.

On April 16, Turkey will hold a referendum — the first since last summer’s attempted coup — that could substantially strengthen President Recep Erdoğan’s powers. But in order to win, Erdoğan needs an unlikely electoral pool: the 1.5 million voting-eligible Turks who live in Germany.

Members of Erdoğan’s government were scheduled to attend campaign rallies in three German cities recently, but the German government cancelled the events, citing vague security concerns. Erdoğan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel exchanged barbs in a nasty back-and-forth, but it’s in their interest to work together.

The EU, largely funded by Germany, has allocated almost 3.2 billion to the Turkish government. That has helped Turkey police the waterways and provide humanitarian support to refugees. Those measures have been instrumental in keeping migrants out of the EU and out of the political conversation in Germany, prior to the country’s federal elections taking place Sept. 24.

To some Merkel opponents, the deal amounts to propping up an autocrat. But even if Merkel doesn’t like the optics, she can’t afford to break the deal. Some 300,000 migrants settled in Germany last year alone, and 53 percent of the German population now supports a U.S.-style travel ban. Whatever the two leaders say, they are both stuck in a deal they desperately need.

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