On the bor­ders of Re­alpoli­tik

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - By Al­brecht Meier

One thing that the Brus­sels sum­mit showed was that the refugee cri­sis is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing an ex­er­cise in re­alpoli­tik for Euro­peans. There is no way around co­op­er­at­ing with Turkey, the EU’s un­sta­ble neigh­bour and door­man.

Ger­many de­pends a great deal on suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with Turkey, given that the coun­try is the main desti­na­tion of many of the refugees. If Ankara were to agree to take back all the mi­grants that have ar­rived in Greece, then the so­called Balkan route would ef­fec­tively dry up. The bizarre discourse that de­vel­oped at the sum­mit about whether the route is “closed” or not would be­come mere wa­ter un­der the bridge, be­cause the EU ex­ter­nal bor­der be­tween Turkey and Greece would act as a bar­rier against more ar­rivals.

Equally cor­rect is the se­cond con­sid­er­a­tion of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu, in which Europe would ac­cept Syr­ian refugees from Turkey in or­der to spare them the haz­ardous sea cross­ing. In essence, this idea is just an­other at­tempt to set up quo­tas, like that al­ready pro­posed by Ger­man In­te­rior Min­is­ter Thomas de Maiz­ière last year. So far, so good. How­ever, An­gela Merkel still faces an up­hill bat­tle in con­vinc­ing her Euro­pean Coun­cil col­leagues that a so­lu­tion to the cri­sis will only be found through a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort. How refugee quo­tas would ac­tu­ally be im­ple­mented and dis­trib­uted among EU states is still any­body’s guess.

The im­pend­ing deal with Turkey is also prob­lem­atic be­cause Euro­peans feel un­easy at the thought of be­ing at the mercy of the coun­try’s pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan. Af­ter the sur­pris­ing de­vel­op­ments at the sum­mits, it is Turkey that will be play­ing a cru­cial role in the dis­tri­bu­tion of refugees among EU mem­ber states, not Greece. The much talked about “hotspots” in Greece, where the reg­is­tra­tion of refugees is sup­posed to be car­ried out, have not gar­nered much at­ten­tion lately.

De­spite the political and sober re­al­i­ties needed to man­age the refugee cri­sis, the par­tial agree­ment that has been hashed out in Brus­sels so far raises nu­mer­ous ques­tions. Th­ese in­clude: is it right to reignite ac­ces­sion talks with Turkey, when free­dom of the press con­tin­ues to be re­stricted by Ankara?

For years, ac­ces­sion ne­go­ti­a­tions have been con­ducted on both sides of the Bospho­rus by par­ties fully aware of the fact that the ul­ti­mate goal of EU mem­ber­ship would not be re­alised in the fore­see­able fu­ture. In the last 12 months, the EU’s at­tempts to push Turkey to be more demo­cratic and im­ple­ment the rule of law more through ac­ces­sion talks has been shown to be a sham. The refugee cri­sis should not be used to pro­long this self-de­cep­tion.

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