EU-Turkey migrant summit: Realpolitik in praxis?

Turkey and the EU will meet on Sunday to discuss what both sides will/can do regarding refugee crisis. But in your opinion, how much and how is this discussion at this moments influenced by Paris attacks and also by downed Russian plane? Read few comments.

Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, Associate Professor, Chair, Department of International Relations, Director, Center for International and European Studies (CIES), Kadir has University

Undoubtedly the EU-Turkey Summit will be influenced by the developments in Paris and the downing of the Russian airliner. I suspect that Ankara will toughen its negotiating stance and ask for more than the 3bn Euros the EU is offering over two years in exchange of the creation of hot spots on its territory in order to process asylum demands. Turkey has already suggested that it wants full visa liberalization for its citizens by 2017 and that it wants some of the blocked chapters opened in order to jump start the accession talks.

The problem is that the Paris bombings have highlighted, whether rightly or wrongly, the securitization dimension of the refugee crisis even more. Albeit the fact that most of those involved in the attacks had French and Belgian citizenship, the fact that some may have entered France from Turkey via Greece makes EU leaders and their publics even more reticent vis-à-vis the refugees. Turkey’s not so clear position with regard to the Islamic State makes it susceptible to  criticisms about its position from an already suspicious Europe.

Also relevant is how the downing of the Russian fighter jet will play among the 28. At a time when global and regional stakeholders have been meeting in Vienna to find a solution to the Syrian impasse, the tensions between Turkey and Russia can only delay the reaching of consensus with Turkey’s ambivalent attitude further doubted as Russia seems to be actively involved in fighting ISIS in Syria. The possible delay in finding a solution can only mean that the refugee outflow from Syria into Turkey and inflow from Turkey into Europe will not be abating anytime soon.

Potentially, this could imply some sort of grand bargain in the making which includes a guarantee that Turkey will not block whatever solution the two communities in Cyprus agree to including a withdrawal of Turkish troops sooner rather than later. This would ensure the opening of more negotiating chapters and tougher monitoring by Brussels of the accession process. Yet, it would all boil down to priorities by both sides. What are the EU priorities? Slowing the flow of refugees, processing them on Turkish soil, and ending the war sooner rather than later. For Turkey, the priorities should also be about ending the war sooner rather than later and slowing the flow of refugees yet for a deal to occur Turkey will bargain hard in the knowledge that the Europeans want this more than it does. The issue is that following Paris and the downing of the Russian warplane is whether Turkey can project itself as an indispensable and reliable partner or whether it is an increasingly ambivalent one with an agenda that increasingly diverges from that of an increasingly divided Europe.

Kerem Öktem, Professor of Southeast Europe and Modern Turkey, Centre of Southeast European Studies, University of Graz

Turkey and the EU have seemingly been witnessing an interlude of re-engagement. But this is a very different form of engagement from the one we were used to in the mid 2000s. Back then, we were talking about Turkey as a future member of the European Union. Turkey and the European Union were getting ready to enter a union that was promising to be more than a strategic alliance. They were discussing integration. Now, they are discussing refugees and the encounter is exclusively limited to the logic of realpolitik. Do not take seriously Turkish President Erdogan’s insistence on a revived accession process or the half-hearted talk in Brussels about a new perspective for Turkey. This is a dirty gamble. And not only is it dirty, but also racist.

Even before the Paris attacks, European societies and their leaders began growing wary of the influx of so many ‘Muslim’ refugees. The gamble, that Turkey and Europe are discussing, is racist because the main goal on the European side is to keep the ‘Muslim Arab’ refugees out. The hope at the EU is to contain Syrian refugees in Turkey and thereby to avoid contamination from the violence of Syria. It is also racist because the idea that 2 million refugees in a -relatively poor- country of 80 million- are less of a problem than 2 or 3 million refugees in a block of more than 500 million, mostly in richer countries. But it is also a dirty gamble: Not only because the EU is officially giving up on human rights, humanitarian principles, the protection of refugees and its global responsibility. It is also dirty, because it turns the plight of refugees into a bargaining chips. The bargain is also dirty because the Turkish side, does not have the wellbeing of the refugees at heart (but then, who cares about the wellbeing of Syrian refugees, anyway), but short term gains of global respectability. Because of the refugee crises, the European Union took great care not to upset Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party before the elections on November 1. Now, the EU seems to be lending a hand to restore Turkish President Erdogan’s international standing at a time, when Turkey is moving from authoritarianism to a situation where the government is turning fascistic.

The downing of the Russian fighter jet by the Turkish military complicates all these dirty gambles for all sides involved. The fight against DAESH opened a window of opportunity for Russia (and President Assad) for the come back to the world stage as the good guys. They were making considerable progress in post-attack France and elsewhere. Now we have one of those riddles in world politics that are hard to understand and that have the potency to wreak serious havoc for global security. France seems to be entering a coalition with Russia to bomb DAESH, while Turkey, a NATO member, is at loggerheads with Russia. Both Turkey and Russia pretend to be at war with DAESH, but in both cases the real enemy is different: What Russia mostly bombs are not ISIS positions but non-ISIS anti government forces, including Turkmen forces and Muslim militia. What Turkey fights against are mostly not ISIS positions either, but Kurdish fighters. In this very volatile situation, anything could happen. For now, and in the short run, both Putin and Erdogan are set to win domestically thanks to their strong man tactics. In the medium run, every one, the Syrian refugees, the people in the Middle East and Turkey, and the European Union will lose. Historical parallels are almost always wrong, but one cannot but remember the volatile situation before World War I and the collective sleepwalking into disaster that ensued.

Andrew Geddes, Professor, Department of Politics, Co-Director, Social Sciences Migration Research Group, University of Sheffield

I think that the meeting between Turkey and the EU will be influenced by events such as the Paris attacks, but the direction of the approach has already been established. The aim is clear: it is to try to ensure that Turkey can become part of the EU effort to regulate migration across the Mediterranean. This has become a key component of the EU response to the refugee crisis. The shooting down of the Russian plane is a wider issue and probably less relevant to these discussions about border security and refugees.

We also need to remember that migration and asylum development in Turkey has been strongly influenced by the EU already. The sticking point for Turkey now is it wants resources, although there is already € 3billion on offer from the European union to assist with the accommodation of refugees.

What could be more difficult is Turkish requests for Visa liberalisation as part of its movement towards membership of the European Union. I think the EU would rather keep it more narrowly focused on responding to the refugee crisis. Turkey has an interest in making it a broader discussion linked with some potential membership of the EU. There’s not much possibility of Turkey joining the EU any time soon, but they be very interested in a more liberal approach to visas. This would be politically controversial in many EU member states, including Germany.

Toni Alaranta, Senior Research Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

The Paris attack of course has some effect as the EU countries now want to have more control regarding the refugees. Also, the EU leaders have indicated that their respective member countries cannot take any more refugees. This increases the tendency to promise all sorts of things to Turkey, for example I heard today that a new negotiation chapter (chapter 17 on economic and monetary policy) will be opened. Turkey will also push for visa freedom more vehemently, as well as its ability to participate EU summits. It seems that the EU is forced to give Erdogan red carpet and promise all sorts of things, selling cheaply all the main principles of the EU – in Turkey, after all, democracy, rule of law, and independence of the judiciary is under constant attack by the government. And still, we get no guarantee whether Turkey will actually do that much to stop the refugees heading to Europe.

In short, EU is opening a new negotiation chapter with an openly anti-western Islamist regime that supports Jabhat al-Nusra (al qaeda) in Syria…. Desperate times for the EU. The EU should realize that getting rid of Assad at whatever cost has enabled the creation of a salafi-jihadist state in Syria/Iraq and that this now functions as a headquarters of a global jihad as well. Turkey is one of those countries allowing this to happen. But the EU does not want to see the reality. It keeps talking about Turkey as an important partner, and emphasizes “common interest” with Turkey against Russia.




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