Monday 21 March 2016

Wolfgang Muenchau has it exactly right on European policy towards Turkey and refugees

Wolfgang Muenchau has written a powerful article in the Financial Times which accurately describes what many of us in Greece and Cyprus are feeling.

The EU had two assets I have always considered un­assailable, however much I may have questioned various decisions. The first is a lack of alternatives. How else can Europeans confront climate change, a refugee crisis or an over-assertive Russian president if not through the EU?

The second is the moral high ground. Compared with the majority of its member states, the EU is less corrupt, more principled and rules-driven. Whereas the world of national politics is full of tacticians out to seek short-term gain, the bloc manages a better mix of politics and policies. It builds broad coalitions and formulates strategic policy objectives. Its horizon extends beyond the life of a parliament.
Within a few years those assets have been demolished. The mismanagement of the eurozone crisis made it possible to formulate a rational economic argument for an exit.

Then, on Friday the EU lost its other key asset. The deal with Turkey is as sordid as anything I have seen in modern European politics. On the day that EU leaders signed the deal, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, gave the game away: “Democracy, freedom and the rule of law...For us, these words have absolutely no value any longer.” At that point, the European Council should have ended the conversation with Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister, and sent him home. But instead they made a deal with him — money and a lot more in return for help with the refugee crisis.

I find it interesting to what extent the European Commission has been bending over backwards to accommodate Angela Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders last year. Once again, another European decision is being made which:
  • Contradicts earlier decisions and international treaties.
  • Rewards Turkey for illegal activities occurring on its own soil, that the country has made few substantive attempts to interdict. I refer here to human trafficking, smuggling and the vast and obvious commercial presence built up around the process of moving hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants at key points on Turkey's Aegean coastline.
  • Ignores the very visible human trafficking and smuggling operations on Turkish and Greek soil, instead deploying a bureaucracy-heavy mechanism to address a problem without understanding its commercial basis. 
  • Rewards Turkey by re-opening accession chapters, despite the fact that Turkey is--according to UN decision and international law--militarily occupying the territory of an EU Member State (Cyprus), which it also refuses to recognise. 
  • Promises visa-free travel for Turkish citizens into Europe without even the semblance of a democratic decision among European voters.
As Muenchau writes, this deal is both sordid and probably cannot be implemented. And it definitely calls into question why sovereignty should be shared, given the repeated, biased and catastrophic errors in European policy-making.

(c) Philip Ammerman, 2016

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