The five-year Syrian civil war and Islamic States occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan have occasioned a heavy human migration and severe humanitarian crisis in Europe. Almost 363,000 Syrians have claimed asylum in Europe in last year alone, while up to 2,000 refugees are arriving on Greek shores every day. EU leaders had engaged Turkey in series of talks to help manage Europe migration crisis but the negotiations have been anything but easy. Angela Merkel, German vice-chancellor expressed in a news conference “the need to put all efforts into achieving an agreement with Turkey in the bid to end the refugee crisis”. But, still, the European Union leaders are having a difficult time getting along with Turkey.
After series of talks, Turkish President, Erdogan outlined tough requirements before he helps to resettle Syrian refugees who are not qualified for asylum in Europe. Tayyip Erdogan asked for: € 6bn financial aid, faster EU membership talks and quicker visa-free travel for his citizens as an exchange for refugees. In this EU-Turkey migration deal, Turkey is expected to take back migrants who crossed through Greek shores in rafts and boats to Europe while Europe will take in a relatively small amount of Syrians from Turkey; a one-for-one migration programme. Militiadis Kyrkos, vice chair of the Europe parliament’s joint committee responded by criticizing Turkey for “trying to extract the maximum from the talks”.
Erdogan threatens to lose out migrants
However, the deal between EU and Turkey seem to be hanging on thread. At this awkward moment European Union leaders are at loggerhead with Erdogan for clamping down on journalists, which had been critical of him, his justice and Development Party. EU leaders warned him to respect the highest standards on democracy, rule of law and freedom of expression. Erdogan is an authoritarian president who is pushing for constitutional changes to increase his sweeping powers. He recently hounded his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu into resigning, and seized the biggest daily newspaper company to silence journalists. Italian Prime Minister had condemned Erdogan behavior to say that “Italy would block any agreement that did not include a reference to press freedom“.
Erdogan, however, seems more than happy to snap it. This is the time when Turkey is already housing more than 3million Syrian refugees and had spent over $10bn on accommodation and feeding. In his speech, the Turkish leader slammed Europe for failing to keep up with its part of the deal, referring to them as hypocrites. Europe had given a new condition which requires Turkey to amend its laws against terrorism, which are used to prosecute Kurdish activists and other critics before visa-free traveling. The EU says: you will change your anti-terror law for visas’’, Erdogan, in his sarcastic reply said “Pardon me, but we are going our way and you can go yours’’.
It appears that the EU-Turkey agreements will not be fulfilled until Turkey upholds the principles of democracy and freedom of expression. This in reality will be difficult, if not impossible. The blatant truth is Erdogan is a problematic partner but EU needs Turkey’s help.