A Turk at the Top

Politician Cem Özdemir is set to soon become Germany’s first national party leader of Turkish descent. As head of the Green Party, he will break through a glass ceiling that still persists for most of the country’s estimated 2.5 million ethnic Turks. Cem Özdemir raises his vodka-orange and winks.
“Serefe.” He seems to relax. There was a crowd outside the bar, packed into Berlin’s KulturBrauerei for the mid-September Radio Multikulti festival, and the way to the small upstairs table had been full of random greetings and handshakes. Özdemir became a political cult hero in 1994, when, at 28, he became the first person of Turkish descent to enter Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. Now an influential member of the European Parliament in Brussels with three books and countless public appearances under his belt, the charismatic politician recently acquired the aura of a future titan within the country’s influential Green Party. Nine days earlier, Volker Ratzmann withdrew from the November 14 race for the party’s top leadership post, clearing the way for Özdemir to claim another high-profile milestone as the first member of an ethnic minority to lead a German national party. Michael Giglio reports.

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