It would be totally unimaginable some years ago that inside the borders of the EU defenseless refugees, many carrying babies, would be assaulted by thugs while police stood and watched, and leaders who were supposed to be committed to the famous Copenhagen Criteria would do — as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán did — their utmost to chase them away to the other countries, as the “zero refugees within our borders” would mark much of Europe as of 2015.
It would also be unthinkable that the leader of a negotiating partner with the EU, responsible for a huge legal and political mess, guilty of steering away his country from all the values of the EU, visits some 24 hours after a body of a Kurd was tied and dragged behind a police vehicle in Şırnak, with many towns in de facto emergency rule; and that he is most welcome by the EU figures, who do not seem to care any longer about any values at all, but in the hope that this leader blocks the refugee flow onto European soil.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in Brussels that Turkey had opened its borders to around 2.2 million Syrian refugees.
“We have so far spent $7.5 billion,” he said. “It’s approaching $8 billion. The support from abroad is only $410 million. This is not sustainable.”
Turkey should be definitely commended for housing so many. But other facts must also be kept in memory. When the Syrian conflict was unfolding, it was then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who in Munich in February of 2012 had confidently said that “even if the entire Syria comes to us, we would welcome them.”
Soon afterwards, it was also the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government that strictly refused all the calls for financial help and support of human resources from international organizations.
Yet, the winds now have filled the sails of President Erdoğan who, after successfully “satisfying” — which, some commentators call “duping” — the Barack Obama administration by opening Incirlik Base, stands ready to renegotiate his tarnished image in Brussels.
“Facing an unprecedented migrant influx, a rising threat from Islamic State terrorists, and unchecked Russian military intervention in Syria, Europe needs Erdoğan like never before,” wrote Simon Tisdall in the Guardian.
What boosts his morale is the 1 billion euro offer made to Turkey by the EU, for keeping refugees “at bay.” This one is the best bargaining position he could hope for at a time when his political future is at stake, his legitimacy is being questioned at home and his credibility abroad.
Tisdall pointedly lays out the picture at the bargaining table, around which cynicism is doomed to apply:
“[Erdoğan] will want a halt to open EU criticism of domestic political developments in Turkey, including his widening crackdown on press freedom and independent journalism. A growing number of journalists have been accused of insulting the president — an offence that carries a five-year jail term. He will also seek de facto European acquiescence in his blatant attempt to revive open conflict, political and military, with Turkey’s Kurdish minority ahead of elections due on 1 November.”
I agree fully with Ali Yurttagül when he wrote in his column in TZ:
“In Turkey, the rule of law has been completely undermined. Judges, prosecutors and police officers who happen to combat corruption in the course of their job are arrested. The witch hunt is getting more and more comprehensive, and even respectable businessmen are being threatened. … Journalists are jailed and militant supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) raid newspaper buildings. … The Copenhagen criteria, the EU’s most precious values, have been completely destroyed. But none of this is important. The EU is focused on the main item on its political agenda, i.e., the refugee crisis, and is conducting negotiations with Erdoğan in Brussels.”
Hours after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) deal with the US, Turkey’s Kurds witnessed the reset of war in Turkey; and it would not be far-fetched to guess the prospects of further deterioration after a deal with Brussels, where cynical leadership reigns.
Erdoğan’s visit was a crucial moment: It threatens not only mark a full end to Turkey’s European vocation, but also the collapse of EU as the center of “values” — sold-out in the name of sheer selfishness.