The decision to appoint the liaisons was made by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and his Turkish counterpart, Efkan Ala, as the two met during the first ever Turkish-German intergovernmental consultations held in Berlin on Jan. 22 and co-chaired by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, German Ambassador to Turkey Martin Erdmann said.
“The first intergovernmental consultations were really very successful. In my opinion, most important of all, new dynamics have been given to relations between the two countries with this meeting” Erdmann told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview.
“A new chapter has been opened, ministers of foreign affairs, interior affairs, the EU affairs, defense and economy participated in this meeting and they drafted a joint working program. In the coming months, insight will be given to this program and cooperation will be intensified. Each interior ministry appointed an official called a ‘sherpa.' These officials, one being in Ankara and the other being in Berlin, will designate agenda items on interior affairs and will lend support for cooperation between the two ministries” Erdmann said.
“The sherpa of the German side is an official, a public servant personally appointed by the German interior minister and is of Turkish origin; Sinan Selen. This displays a beautiful example for the relations between the two countries. A German minister appoints a German public servant and this public servant will represent the German side as a public servant who has roots in Turkey” Erdmann said.
The Turkish Interior Ministry has appointed Interior Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Mehmet Tekinarslan as its liaison for discussions and cooperation with the German side, Turkish officials told the Hürriyet Daily News. Delegations led by the two liaisons conducted their first meeting in Ankara on Jan. 26.
Selen has worked for the Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, the Bundeskriminalamt (BTA), since the early 2000s. Most recently, he worked as the head of the Counter Terrorism Division at the Federal Interior Ministry. Known for his expertise on border security and foreign fighters joining Islamic State (IS), he has represented Germany at many international conferences on these issues.
The term sherpa, which comes from the eponymous Himalayan community, has emerged in diplomatic parlance in recent times for an official who makes preparations for or assists a government representative or important delegate at a summit meeting or conference.
‘No Islamophobia in Germany'
There is no such phenomenon as Islamophobia in Germany, the veteran German diplomat also said, underlining that the activities of some right-wing extremist groups did not reflect the general environment in the entire country.
“I say this especially for Germany; I'm bored of these discourses on prejudice about Islamophobia. A phenomenon called Islamophobia in Germany is definitely out of the question” he said.
“Take a look at Germany, how many hundreds of mosques will you see? Take a look, how many millions of Muslims are able to perform worship without facing any obstacles?” Erdmann asked. “If some right-wing extremist organizations, such as Pegida, are marching and holding a demonstration in only one city, in Dresden, generalizing this for the entire Germany is not right and there is no Islamophobia in this sense” he said.
“Since Jan. 1, 2015, Germany has accepted 1.1 million refugees and the majority of them are Muslims. We are spending great amounts to support these refugees. Would German society do something like this, if a far-reaching Islamophobia which has broad impact existed? Germany is a country which is open to the world.
Looking at the last 40 years, citizens with origin from Turkey have enriched our society and our country and looking at these almost 3 million citizens, a considerable part of them are Muslims” Erdmann said.
Following the Jan. 22 meeting, Davutoğlu and Merkel signed a joint communiquÃ© under which “the Turkish government will do everything to reduce the number of refugees” crossing into the European Union. The two leaders also “emphasized their commitment toward meaningfully advancing the negotiations between Turkey and the EU on visa liberalization with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area by October 2016.”
“Regardless of what people think and of public's reaction, an action plan has been agreed upon and representatives of elected governments arrived at such a joint conclusion. How voters in member countries will assess the visa liberalization process is a collateral issue. What matters is that an action plan has been presented by the elected governments and this has to be accepted” Erdmann said.