Trade-offs and refugees

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PAN­TELIS BOUKALAS

The gilded thrones may have been the per­fect ex­pres­sion of Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s sul­tanic am­bi­tions but they ap­peared to make his guest, An­gela Merkel, some­what un­com­fort­able judg­ing by the cus­tom­ary pho­to­graphs. Maybe the Ger­man chan­cel­lor was think­ing that such a lav­ish set­ting was not ap­pro­pri­ate for dis­cussing the fate of thou­sands of peo­ple whose only sur­viv­ing as­sets are their bod­ies, their chil­dren and what­ever dol­lars or eu­ros they have man­aged to save up to pay their traf­fick­ers. Maybe Merkel, as she sat in the kind of showy op­u­lence that usu­ally re­veals some­thing deeper, was think­ing that she was be­ing used by the Turk­ish pres­i­dent as a pro­pa­ganda tool, that her pres­ence in Is­tan­bul just a few days be­fore elec­tions in Turkey was giv­ing Er­do­gan a pow­er­ful boost. Par­tic­u­larly at a time when the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment is fac­ing so many ac­cu­sa­tions: of wag­ing war against the Kurds and brush­ing off ev­ery pro­posal for a peace set­tle­ment in a bid to ap­peal to those who want au­thor­i­tar­ian rule; of racism and in­tol­er­ance; of per­se­cut­ing its po­lit­i­cal ri­vals; and of quash­ing free speech by crack­ing down on “un­ortho­dox” jour­nal­ists who don’t prop­a­gate the Er­do­gan nar­ra­tive. Merkel can­not be un­aware of all this, and even if her own ad­vis­ers failed to brief her 100 Turk­ish uni- ver­sity pro­fes­sors did in an open let­ter. Let us ac­cept that on a mis­sion dur­ing which she was not just rep­re­sent­ing Ger­many but the Euro­pean Union as a whole, Merkel de­cided to strike a con­ces­sion­ary tone for the sake of the is­sue at hand: the pro­tec­tion of the refugees, or, rather, the stem­ming of the flow of refugees. The idea is that the refugee in­flux will abate not as a re­sult of peace in Syria but by con­vinc­ing Turkey to be more vig­i­lant of its bor­ders, to ac­cept the cre­ation of camps on its ter­ri­tory where refugees can be iden­ti­fied and doc­u­mented and to grant pas­sage to Europe to those who are deemed el­i­gi­ble for refugee sta­tus. It is a tech­ni­cal so­lu­tion to a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem; ergo, no so­lu­tion at all. Turkey, nat­u­rally, did not just de­mand financial re­mu­ner­a­tion for its co­op­er­a­tion. It asked that its own peo­ple be given eas­ier to ac­cess to Europe. And it got it. It asked that its Euro­pean ac­ces­sion be speeded up even though it has ful­filled only a hand­ful of the 40 cri­te­ria. And it was promised this would hap­pen by the most pow­er­ful voice in Europe: the Ger­man one. And what about the refugees? If only they had been the main topic of dis­cus­sion at that meet­ing. In­stead, they will keep drown­ing. And if the com­plex war in Syria con­tin­ues un­abated, even the win­ter will not pre­vent them from try­ing to get across.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.