Angela Merkel’s meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the sidelines of the 11th G20 Summit held in China on 4-5 September was crucial for her political future. The German Chancellor and her party seem to be losing ground, particularly in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania due to their migration policies.
The Christian Democratic Union of Germany lost 4 percentage points compared to its 2011 performance and was overtaken by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party. The latter made the discussions with the Turkish President even more imperative.
The Chancellor mentioned that the EU and Ankara may come to an agreement on the visa free travel access for Turkish citizens in the coming weeks. That comes just after Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister had stated last Saturday that Turkey will continue implementing the migration crisis agreement with the European Union but will not make further actions unless visa deliberations are granted in exchange.
Thus, the talks between the EU and Turkey seem to be paying off given the fact that Turkey starts taking back its threats about dropping the migration deal on October. What could be the reason? Will the EU grant visa deliberations to Turkish citizens in addition to financial aid or did Turkey suddenly realise that it cannot blackmail, at least for the moment, the EU?
Turkey changes its stance
The Turkish government has been openly threatening that the migration deal which was signed last March will be cancelled in case the EU will not provide visa free travel to Turkish citizens until October. But now it seems that Turkey has eased its position on this matter finally realising that nothing is going to be implemented without the fulfilment of the remaining six of the 72 EU prerequisites.
More specifically, Omer Celik, Turkey’s Europe minister, said in a press conference last Saturday: “We will continue to implement it (migration deal) out of humanitarian reasons. Without visa liberalisation, Turkey will not be part of any new mechanism”. Furthermore, Omer Celik mentioned that the death penalty is not “on the agenda” in an attempt to calm things down between the two sides.
However, it is certain that Turkey will not change its anti-terror law which is among the conditions to deliver visa free travel access to Turkey. As Turkey’s Europe minister said: “It is not rational to expect from Turkey to make any change in Turkish anti-terror law in current circumstances”.
EU urges G20 leaders to address migration crisis
During the first day of the G20 Summit the president of the European Commission (EC) together with the president of the European Council held a joint press conference where both expressed their concern on migration crisis.
Jean-Claude Juncker mentioned that the EC is planning to address this long-lasting issue by tackling its root causes and is preparing an External Investment Plan where public funds will generate private investments. The EC plans to sum up 3,1 billion euros till 2020 which are about to trigger additional public and private investments of up to 31 billion euros. However, the point is whether private investors or member states will be persuaded to place their money on this Plan. It seems that mainly countries such as Germany have the financial means to contribute adequately but it remains yet to be seen whether they will do it or not.
Donald Tusk also pointed out that Europe is “close to its limits” regarding migrants’ capacities and further aid from non-European countries is extremely required. The solution of the migration crisis lies certainly on its root causes and the G20 should be capable of providing practical solutions to this issue.
Will the EU keep depending on Turkey or it is time for Plan B?
All in all, it is clear that Turkey has no intent to alter its anti-terror laws which is a perennial condition on granting Turks with visa free travel access. The threats of stepping out of the migration agreement seem to fade away at the moment the EU appears to stand for its adamant position. But for how long will this last? It is critical for the EU to find an ally that can rely on and not someone who is not sharing the same values.
The Investment Plan that the EC is preparing extensively in order to reduce the influx of the migration waves is something that will certainly need a lot of time to be implemented and to be tested in practice.
The past has shown that Europe cannot face the migration crisis alone. Turkey is and will play a decisive role on this matter and financial assistance is not going to be enough for the Turkish government to accept to slow down the migration crisis.
Europe will be most likely forced to change now its prerequisites in favor of Turkey in order to manage the migration crisis and reduce the popularity of the extreme right parties until a more permanent solution is found; a solution which does not include Turkey.