How will the EU face the migration crisis when the Turkish threats come true?


Plenary session week 47 2016 in Strasbourg – EU-Turkey relations Johannes HAHN, Member ofthe EC in charge of European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Date: 22/11/2016 Location: STRASBOURG Copyright: © European Union 2016 – Source: EP.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 24 November calling for the negotiations to be suspended between the EU and the Turkish government until the latter ends its suppressive and dominant response to July’s failed coup.

But this decision has triggered immediate reactions by the Turkish and European sides. While the president of Turkey threatens to open the borders and allow thousands of migrants to flood Europe, the EU leaders and officials attempt to ease the tension by stating that freezing the dialogue and negotiations with Turkey is not profitable for anyone.

Germany stated that both EU and Turkey should honor their pledges to the migration deal of last March and added that there is no plan B to deal with the influx of migrants. However, Angela Merkel seems to be changing her open door policy in order to have chances to be elected for fourth consecutive term.

December will be very crucial for the negotiations between the EU and Turkey since as it seems Turkey will not change its anti-terror laws and Erdogan is likely to cancel his migration agreement with the EU by the end of the year.

MEPs against EU-Turkey accession talks

The recent vote by the Members of the Parliament (MEPs) to halt, but not completely abandon, the EU accession negotiations with Turkey have caused severe turbulences to the relations between the two sides putting the entire migration deal at risk. The Turkish government is again threatening to allow migrants to cross the borders with the EU.

More specifically, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mentioned during a speech in Istanbul last week: “If you go any further, these border gates will be opened. Neither me nor my people will be affected by these dry threats. It wouldn’t matter if all of you approved the (European Parliament) vote. We are the ones who feed three-three and a half million refugees in this country. You have betrayed your promises.” What is more, the Turkish President characterized the vote as of “no value at all” since it is non-binding.

EU not in enthusiastic about EP’s vote

Will the EU leaders be influenced by this vote? It seems that they do not have the same opinion as many leaders and officials rushed to express their opposition. In detail, German Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli mentioned last Friday that “it is important that we keep talking”. Furthermore, EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said that halting accession talks would be a “lose-lose scenario”.

However, even if the EU is fearing that Turkey will abandon the migration pact, the vote of the EP must be taken into serious consideration since it is based on what exactly the EU stands for. The EU member states should share basic rights and freedoms as well as democratic values, values that have been breached by the Turkish authorities after the failed coup but also prior to that. Thus, the continuation of the EU membership talks should not proceed if Turkey’s keeps on violating core EU values like freedom of speech.

Merkel’s migration policy shift

The change of stance regarding Germany’s migration policy has been driven, mainly during the last few months, by the collapse of the Chancellor’s popularity. The open-door policy that Angela Merkel has been supporting begins to fail now as the German Chancellor announced her plans to deport 100,000 migrants who arrived in Germany during 2015. Mrs Merkel claimed that repatriation is the most important thing and urged local regions to deport all migrants whose asylum applications are rejected by using force if necessary.

This however doesn’t change the fact that she was the one to have ‘called’ all those people to travel to Europe and particularly to Germany. It is most certain that the Chancellor has understood that this policy was not viable and could jeopardise her popularity in the next elections.

No plan B

Angela Merkel backed up the refugee agreement and urged the EU and Turkey to stick to the pre-agreed terms. Both parties should work hard in order to make sure that this project is being implemented as there is no Plan B in the mind of Mrs Merkel. The European Parliament’s vote has been critical as the EU leaders meet in December to discuss about Turkey’s EU membership, since concerns increasingly grow now regarding the reaction of Turkey if the EU freezes the negotiations.

All in all, the migration crisis has reached a stalemate with the EU to be facing severe consequences in the probable scenario that Turkey backs off from the agreement. December is certainly going to be a tough month at the moment when migrant camps and hotspots in Greece are over flooded, while violence is surging in the islands of Greece, especially in Lesvos and Chios.

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