Best columns: Europe
Negotiating with Turkey over hostages
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
One German “hostage” is free, but how are we going to get the other 11 arbitrarily detained Germans out of Turkey? asked Berthold Kohler. Thanks to secret negotiations by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, German human rights campaigner Peter Steudtner was released from a Turkish prison last week. He had been charged— preposterously—with terrorism. That a judge was suddenly willing to drop the charges and let Steudtner walk shows that Turkish justice is concerned with upholding not the law but rather the whims of authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. So what did Schröder promise Erdogan? Clearly, he didn’t convince the president of the error of imprisoning German citizens on political grounds, because Deniz Yucel, correspondent for the daily Die Welt, and others are still held. Erdogan desperately wants to get his hands on “those Turks on his purge list who fled to Germany.” Would Schröder trade them for one German? One wonders, given that the former chancellor seems willing to strike deals with despots—he was, after all, recently appointed chairman of the Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft. But even offering trade concessions to Turkey would have been a mistake, because that would be negotiating with hostage takers. “Germany cannot and should not get involved in Ottoman-style bartering” with people’s lives.
Blaming the messengers on Brexit
Brexit is proving such a catastrophe that its supporters are now on the hunt for scapegoats, said Euan McColm. The British government has made no progress on an exit deal with the European Union—whose negotiating stance can best be described as “F--- you”—but rather than blame themselves for getting us into this mess, the Brexiteers have decided to blame Britain’s press and universities for being insufficiently cheerful about the U.K.’s solo prospects. Andrea Leadsom, that “absolute clot” who is leader of the House of Commons, is demanding that the BBC abandon its quest for truth and instead be “more patriotic” when covering Brexit negotiations. Another lawmaker with the ruling Conservative Party, Chris Heaton-Harris, has demanded a list of professors who are teaching about Brexit, presumably to “wheedle out those” who support remaining in the EU. He is apparently inspired by the right-wing tabloid Daily Mail’s allegations that university faculties are hotbeds of Remainers, and that students fear they will be flunked if they dare to write papers supporting Britain’s departure from the EU. Of course, it’s probably true that most professors oppose Brexit. But if Brexiteers weren’t such “monomaniacal zealots,” they might engage with critical thinkers and view the “examination and analysis of facts as positive things rather than acts of treachery.” ■