The EU-Turkey deal lauded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a possible “breakthrough” in the refugee crisis met with considerable criticism after being presented to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Deutsche Welle reports:
The deal, which was struck at a European Union-Turkey summit on Monday, would see Ankara take back migrants and asylum seekers trying to cross to Europe. In return, the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee for everyone that had been forced to return to Turkish soil.
The refugee crisis — more than a million people fleeing war and hardship in the Middle East and beyond have landed on Europe’s shores — has significantly shifted the balance of power between Turkey and Europe, The New York Times notes:
Membership in the European Union was once seen as a carrot to induce Turkey to push through democratic reforms. Now it is offered as an enticement for Turkish help to contain the flow of refugees, with Europe, critics say, choosing to set aside its values to secure Turkish cooperation.
“More rights and freedoms for people in Turkey has been the reason why I supported accession,” said Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament. But nowadays, she said, “we see the trading away of principles in the mere hope of solutions to Europe’s own challenges in dealing with asylum seekers and migrants.”
The EU, buffeted by the migrant panic, the continuing fallout from the financial and eurozone crises, and the possibility of a British departure from the union, is being pushed into alliance with leaders who hold its values in contempt. Paralysed into tawdry realpolitik, it is surrendering soft power: the attraction of an open society based on shared and codified values of freedom, notes FT analyst David Gardner:
So it is in this week’s latest attempt to make Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey the EU bulwark holding back the waves of refugees converging on Europe from Syria and elsewhere. President Erdogan chose this moment, right after talks with Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council, to show Europeans how much he respects the freedoms underpinning their union.
The seizure of Zaman (above) returns Turkey to the politics of revenge, notes P24, Turkey’s platform for independent journalism [and a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy]. Is the EU prepared to put expediency above principle? it asks. The seizure is the latest in a series of assaults not just on the media but also on the judiciary, academia and civil society.
Political opponents of Turkey’s AKP government have criticized the EU for morally bankrupt pandering to Turkey at the cost of refugees from the wider region and potentially from Turkey itself, Alev Scott, author of the book “Turkish Awakening,” writes for Politico.
“The AKP has played hard ball with the European Union and won,” said Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at St. Lawrence University. “The visa agreement, in particular, underlines a narrative of Turkey as having finally ‘arrived’ and is something that previous governments could only have dreamed of achieving.”
As EU leaders, in their desperation to strike a deal to in effect pay for Turkish territory to shield their frontiers and serve as a holding pen for refugees, Mr Erdogan reminds them that, for him, there are no boundaries left. The so-called Copenhagen Criteria of EU democratic club-rules come a poor second to his Ankara rules, the FT’s Gardner adds:
This is partly Europe’s fault. From 2008 Germany called into question Turkey’s bona fides as a club member, seeing it as too big, too poor and, above all, too Muslim. That was when EU accession was serving as an engine of constitutional reform and democratic transition. Since then Turkey has cut loose from its western moorings, pulled east by Mr Erdogan’s delusions of a neo-Ottoman Middle East. The Turkey Europe and Angela Merkel, German chancellor, are re-embracing is under the thumb of one man.
“This [deal] comes as President Erdoğan is almost certainly gearing up for a renewed push at constitutional changes that will significantly enhance presidential powers and cement his control over the country,” said Eissenstat. “In general, I think the AKP is in a pretty strong position to push forward at this juncture. Today’s agreement only improves this.”