Time to stand firm on Turkey
E DII TO RII A L
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.