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Staunch Erdoğan critic with Turkish roots to become German agriculture minister

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Cem Özdemir, a senior member of Germany’s Green Party and a sharp critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will become the new agriculture minister, the country’s second-ever minister of Turkish origin, his party announced Thursday.

Green Party manager Michael Kellner said Özdemir would lead the agriculture ministry as the country’s incoming coalition government takes shape.

Özdemir was a member of the Bundestag from 1994 to 2002. From 2004 to 2009, he was a member of the European Parliament. In 2013, he returned to the Bundestag. He had been chairman of the Green Party from 2008 until early 2018. 

The 55-year-old Özdemir is known for his harsh criticism of Erdoğan’s autocratic rule at home and activities in Europe.

On October 31 Özdemir accused Erdoğan of promoting Islamist terrorism and manipulating people of Turkish origin in Europe.

In a TV interview in 2017 Özdemir asserted that any attempt to create a “parallel society in Germany” must be stopped immediately.

“Too many Turkish opposition supporters … fear they are insufficiently protected in Germany. I feel we need to give a crystal-clear answer that we will not tolerate anything like that. I think Germany is a little too naive in that regard,” Özdemir said.

Özdemir will be Germany’s second-ever ethnic Turkish minister at the federal level after Aydan Özoğuz of the Social Democrats (SPD), who was minister for migration, refugees and integration between 2013 and 2018.

On Monday the SPD, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens announced a coalition government. The incoming center-left government will be headed by Olaf Scholz from SPD following the election defeat of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany has a total population of just over 83 million, of which more than 3 million have Turkish roots, constituting the largest Turkish community outside Turkey. 

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