Following Monday’s news that that EU, via Angela Merkel, had suspended plans to extend visa-free travel with Turkey, a public slap in the face of Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan who had expected the deal to be ratified due to his threat of “unleashing” millions of refugees back into Europe, we said that “the question is whether the infuriated Turkish leader will resort to making good on his threat, and once again send out countless refugees along the Balkan route whose end destination is well-known: the wealthy countries of Central Europe.”
Overnight we got a partial answer when Erdogan said that Turkey would not take any steps regarding the implementation of migrant readmission until progress was made on visa liberalization. He also said funds that the EU had promised to pay Ankara for taking back refugees had not been paid. In other words, the deal that had halted the influx of refugees into not only Germany but all of Europe is suddenly in limbo as Turkey will no longer accept European refugees as per the deal agreed upon last month.
Turkey added it is not worried if a decision cannot be reached, with Ankara’s new EU affairs minister saying that the EU was not the “sole option.” Omer Celik, who recently replaced Volkan Bozkir in the cabinet named by new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, said he also wanted the EU to drop its double standards regarding the fight against terrorism.
In short, as expected Turkey is not only calling time on the refugee deal but is also threatening to go with other alternatives.
Turkey’s refusal to change its anti-terrorism laws has been a sore point regarding relations with the EU. Ankara says they cannot be changed due to the threat posed by Islamic State terrorists and Kurdish militants. However, critics of Erdogan, along with human rights organizations, have accused the Turkish government of using the terror laws as an excuse to carry out a military crackdown against Kurds in the restive southeast of the country.
Even Germany has become worried about the hard line taken by Erdogan, with Chancellor Merkel concerned about the country’s slide from democracy after the decision to strip MPs of legal immunity. “I’ve made this clear in the conversation today that I also think we need an independent judicial system, we need independent media and we need a strong parliament,” Merkel said after holding talks with Erdogan in Istanbul on Monday.
Meanwhile, the person who has most to lose should the Turkish refugee deal unwind, Angela Merkel, who has seen her popularity in the polls tumble as a result of her handling of the immigrant influx, said he is not concerned. As RT writes, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is not worried about the migrant pact between the EU and Turkey, though she admitted more time was needed to reach an agreement. Meanwhile, Ankara says it has alternatives to the EU if a deal cannot be reached.”
“I am not concerned, we just need more time,” Merkel told reporters on Wednesday, as cited by Reuters, after a cabinet meeting just outside Berlin.
She should be: As Bloomberg Richard Breslow writes:
“the threat to Europe, however, remains.
A day after German Chancellor Merkel returned from Istanbul in a desperate attempt to salvage the refugee deal so important to European unity, Turkey’s Foreign Minister said all agreements with the EU could be suspended. This followed an Erdogan adviser saying the joint customs union was at risk. Give us what we want or else. Truth is, right now, Europe needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Europe.
It may not be a coincidence that while Turkey’s markets were celebrating yesterday, the euro was getting pasted. What happens in Turkey, doesn’t stay in Turkey.”
As of this moment the refugee deal is in limbo. If and when it is cancelled outright, Europe’s immigrant related problems will come back with a vengeance.
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