Time to stand firm on Turkey

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Would it be self­ish if Cyprus ve­toed the EU-Turkey agree­ment, es­pe­cially now that Ankara is press­ing for a mi­grants-for-ac­ces­sion deal?

Con­sid­er­ing the sol­i­dar­ity that Cyprus has re­ceived from north­ern Euro­pean states, which is the pri­mary desti­na­tion of ev­ery mi­grant from the Middle East, cen­tral Asia, Syria and even Turkey, it is about time that Pres­i­dent Anas­tasi­ades stood firm and did not give in to pres­sure, as has been the case in the re­cent past with the bailout/bail-in ex­per­i­ment that was tested on Cyprus and failed to a larger ex­tent.

Cyprus has been called to give its con­sent to un­freez­ing five ma­jor chap­ters in the EU-Turkey ne­go­ti­a­tion process. But Ankara’s in­sis­tence that it wants to have the cake and eat it as well is al­ready play­ing into the hands of dis­senters within the EU who are op­posed to the un­con­trolled flow of mi­grants, most of whom are not even refugees from Syria.

It is clear that Turkey wants more money, which, as usual, will be used for any­thing but hous­ing, in­te­grat­ing or repa­tri­at­ing refugees, which was part of the plan that An­gela Merkel tried to push through last week’s meet­ing, ef­fec­tively sidelin­ing Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk. How­ever, the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor’s “open doors” pol­icy, as hu­mane as it may seem, has up­set the core of the coun­try’s so­ci­ety, with many vot­ing with their feet on Sun­day and show­ing their ob­jec­tion to Merkel’s poli­cies, that seem to take Turkey’s needs more into con­sid­er­a­tion than the EU’s.

It is high time that Cyprus told its EU part­ners that Turkey must show gen­uine re­spect for Cyprus and that it must prac­ti­cally con­trib­ute to re­solv­ing the fivedecades old prob­lem, with talks cur­rently un­der­way be­tween the two com­mu­nity lead­ers reach­ing an un­prece­dented hia­tus, alas un­der­mined by Ankara.

Western pow­ers for­get that Turkey chose to take sides in the Syria con­flict, sim­ply to have its say and con­trol its bor­der (or even ex­pand it), with the un­der­ly­ing pur­pose of deal­ing a blow to the Kur­dish mi­nor­ity. Soon af­ter that it opened the flood­gates al­low­ing thou­sands of Syr­ian refugees onto its soil, and pointed them in Europe’s di­rec­tion, tol­er­at­ing the traf­fick­ers and hop­ing that it could thus ex­ert lev­er­age on its EU and US al­lies to rush to its aid.

The bluff paid off and the EU was un­able to han­dle the rush, as it was too busy de­cid­ing what to do with the boat-loads of mi­grants who were drown­ing by the thou­sands and did not see the new threat com­ing from the south east­ern front. As a re­sult, the pres­sure has been redi­rected from the shores of Spain, Italy and Greece to Greece alone, with western lead­ers de­mand­ing, even, that Athens “deal with the prob­lem” on its own, as long as it was not on Europe’s doorstep.

The refugee prob­lem will not go away in a week and it will not be re­solved un­less a proper peace ef­fort gets un­der­way and holds in Syria. And this is where the EU should play a key role, as is Rus­sia and the now-beloved Iran, to solve the prob­lem on the ground and re­built Syria, but not to the ad­van­tage of Turkey that sim­ply wants to ex­ert its hege­mony in the re­gion.

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