Cheyenne Toss*

19 March 2024

The EU-Turkey agreement is a controversial topic, extensively discussed and evaluated within the German media. The stark divergence of opinions across the political spectrum is striking. In this blog post, we examine reporting from different political perspectives, showcasing which arguments and viewpoints are particularly emphasized. We compare news from right, center, and left media outlets in Germany to understand how the EU-Turkey deal is presented and the conclusions drawn from it.

For right-wing media, we looked at COMPACT ( and Junge Freiheit ( Founded in 2010, COMPACT describes itself as Germany’s most widely reached opposition medium, patriotic, and liberal but not affiliated with any party. Junge Freiheit, founded in 1986, is politically conservative, right-wing, and nationalistic, described as the ideological offspring of right-wing populism in Germany. Both criticize the EU-Turkey agreement, centering their critique on the belief that the agreement has failed to achieve its desired results, leading to the opposite effect. An article in COMPACT from February 2020, titled “Erdoğan: We Opened the Gates –Is a Second 2015 Coming?”, questions how often patriotic oppositions had warned against the deal with Ankara. They view the agreement as a major failure that will exacerbate the migration situation, citing the events at the Greek border leading to increased unrest and violent clashes in major cities. Alice Weidel, the parliamentary group leader of the AFD (Alternative für Deutschland), is quoted as describing the deal as a “birth defect” and a lever of blackmail from the outset. COMPACT speculated that the refugee situation could surpass that of 2015, especially during the peak of the February 2020 Edirne crisis. Erdoğan's statement that he would no longer prevent anyone from crossing the border is cited as evidence of a potential influx of migrants. The financial support Turkey receives from the EU is also criticized, with claims that despite the EU’s billion-euro payments, the influx of irregular (referred to as illegal in the article) migrants to Europe has increased, and Turkey is blocking the return of undocumented migrants, violating the agreement’s terms. The article also warns that terrorists may be among the refugees.

The right-wing media also emphasize that Angela Merkel negotiated the agreement. An article from Junge Freiheit in 2023, titled “Merkel’s Turkey Deal Creates More Immigration”, opens with headlines suggesting that Merkel, once celebrated for the deal, is now overseeing an agreement costing ten billion euros and resulting in Turkey taking back almost no illegal immigrants. The article describes the deal as a “pipe dream” and points the finger at Merkel and Erdoğan, accusing them of allowing the continued flow of refugees because Turkey is simply letting migrants go, leading to an increase rather than a decrease in refugee numbers.

Reports from more moderate political sources like ZDF heute ( and Die Zeit ( provide relatively neutral information on the development of the agreement. ZDF heute, a public television channel since 1963, has a mandate to report objectively and independently, offering a variety of content. Die Zeit, a well-known national weekly newspaper founded in 1946, takes a liberal-conservative stance and strives for balanced reporting on current issues. Both emphasize different aspects of the agreement. For example, Die Zeit published an article in 2022 titled “Without Clothes – Without Rights” about events in Greece, highlighting misinformation and manipulation on the subject. It reported on the Greek Migration Minister’s showing of a photo of naked migrants and his subsequent accusations against Turkey. The incident is seen as part of an information war, with Frontex also involved. Erdoğan responded with images at the UN General Assembly, blaming the “unlawful and brazen pushbacks” by the Greek coastguard for turning the Aegean into a “refugee cemetery”. The centrist media highlight the agreement’s complexity and numerous challenges, underscoring the need for a coordinated and comprehensive approach that considers both the humanitarian needs of refugees and the legal obligations of the involved parties.

A recent article in ZDF heute dated February 2024 titled “Turkey: Why the Mood Against Syrians is Tipping” highlights the growing tension in Turkey toward Syrian refugees, focusing on the issue from a different perspective. The article discusses Erdoğan’s plans to build houses in Syria to facilitate the return of refugees. The article also delves into the opinions of political opposition leaders. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the opposition leader, is quoted saying, “In two years at the latest, we will send all our Syrian brothers back to Syria with drums and zurna; we will not recognize any obstacle.” Meral Akşener, the former interior minister, is also cited, describing Turkey as “a rubbish dump of the Europeans”. These statements, as the article argues, amplify the fears of Syrians, thereby increasing their urgency to flee to Europe amidst ongoing uncertainty in Syria.

The left-wing media maintain a notably different stance. Outlets such as the portal nd (Neues Deutschland) (, originally published in 1948 as the central organ of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and privatized after the reunification in 1990, now stands as an independent newspaper that serves as a platform for left-wing journalism, reflecting a spectrum of left-wing positions and opinions. Similarly, the news site of the Left Party ( espouses a left-wing, socialist, and partly communist viewpoint. Both are critical of the EU-Turkey deal, but unlike right-wing media, their criticism is mainly directed at the EU. In the article “All According to Plan” published by nd, the argument is presented that although the EU has voiced concerns about Turkey’s domestic politics, it has made significant concessions to foster economic cooperation and provide financial support. The left’s criticism focuses on the EU’s externalization policies and its collaborative stance with Turkey, condemning the Union for entering or having entered into inhumane agreements like the EU-Turkey deal. They cite illegal pushbacks by Frontex, the criminalization of sea rescue, and the catastrophic humanitarian conditions in refugee shelters as evidence of these policies. The EU is also accused of hypocrisy: “There are compelling reasons to reject the agreement—as a quintessential example of a refugee policy crafted on the selfish desire to shift problems away and deposit them beyond the EU’s external borders… Thus, simultaneous criticism of the Greek conditions is deeply hypocritical. The deplorable conditions are deliberately cultivated to discourage incoming numbers.”

The Left Party’s news page echoes this sentiment, repudiating the deal on similar grounds. In an article titled “No to the Tightening of European Isolation Policy – For a Humane Asylum and Migration Policy,” it advocates for social changes and investments in public services as key solutions to the refugee situation. The piece argues against deportations to countries like Libya, where international protection rights are imperiled, and calls for increased support for local authorities in accommodating refugees. The left-wing perspective underscores the need for a humanitarian and solidarity-based approach to migration policy, advocating a shift from externalization measures to policies that prioritize human rights and the dignity of those seeking protection. “The militarization of the EU’s external borders has intensified, particularly since the so-called refugee crisis of 2015. The UNI-TED network reports that over 44,764 people have perished due to the EU border regime between 1993 and June 2021.” Concerns about “further nefarious agreements” akin to the EU-Turkey deal are also voiced.

In conclusion, German media coverage of the EU-Turkey agreement is heavily influenced by political biases. Right-wing media label the agreement a failure, citing an uptick in EU refugee numbers, while moderate outlets offer neutral insights but highlight the deal’s inherent complexities. Centrist media stress the need for a unified and comprehensive strategy to address the migration crisis that balances humanitarian needs with legal responsibilities. Conversely, left-wing media critique the agreement by pointing to the EU’s externalization practices and collaboration with Turkey, calling for societal change, public service investments, and the assurance of international protection in all EU member states. The spectrum of viewpoints demonstrates the complexity and contentious nature of the EU-Turkey agreement, underscoring the necessity for nuanced dialogue and reflection on the future of European migration policy.



Die Linke: 

Junge Freiheit:

Nd (Neues Deutschland) – Journalismus von  links:|Abkommen|Fl%C3%BCchtlinge

Zdf heute:

Zeit online: 



*Cheyenne Toss is a student at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences Mainz, Germany, specializing in Social Sciences: Migration and Integration. Currently, as an Erasmus student at the Department of International Relations, Özyeğin University, Istanbul, and interning at GAR as part of her Erasmus program, her main motivation is to acquire new knowledge, diverse working methods, and, above all, a different perspective on the complex topic of migration.


**The ideas and opinions expressed in GAR Blog publications are those of the authors; they do not reflect those of the Association for Migration Research.

***The image is taken from shutterstock.


Citation suggestion: Toss, Cheyenne. The EU-Turkey Deal: A Sampling of Diverse Perspectives in the German Media. GAR Blog. 18 March 2024.