Monday, 25 April 2016

The Sultan's blackmail of Europe

Turkey Blackmails Europe on Visa-Free Travel


24 April, 2016

  • The European Union now finds itself in a classic catch-22 situation. Large numbers of Muslim migrants will flow to Europe regardless of whether or not the EU approves the visa waiver for Turkey.

  • "If visa requirements are lifted completely, each of these persons could buy a cheap plane ticket to any German airport, utter the word 'asylum,' and trigger a years-long judicial process with a good chance of ending in a residency permit." — German analyst Andrew Hammel.

  • In their haste to stanch the rush of migrants, European officials effectively allowed Turkey to conflate the two very separate issues of a) uncontrolled migration into Europe and b) an end to visa restrictions for Turkish national.

  • "Why should a peaceful, stable, prosperous country like Germany import from some remote corner of some faraway land a violent ethnic conflict which has nothing whatsoever to do with Germany and which 98% Germans do not understand or care about?" — German analyst Andrew Hammel.
  • "Democracy, freedom and the rule of law.... For us, these words have 
    absolutely no value any longer." — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey has threatened to renege on a landmark deal to curb illegal migration to the European Union if the bloc fails to grant visa-free travel to Europe for Turkey's 78 million citizens by the end of June.


If Ankara follows through on its threat, it would reopen the floodgates and allow potentially millions of migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East to flow from Turkey into the European Union.


Under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal, which entered into effect on March 20, Turkey agreed to take back migrants and refugees who illegally cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. In exchange, the European Union agreed to resettle up to 72,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkey, and pledged up to 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) in aid to Turkey during the next four years.


European officials also promised to restart Turkey's stalled EU membership talks by the end of July 2016, and to fast-track visa-free access for Turkish nationals to the Schengen (open-bordered) passport-free zone by June 30.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) has boasted that he is proud of blackmailing EU leaders, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (right), into granting Turkish citizens visa-free access to the EU and paying Turkey billions of euros.


To qualify for the visa waiver, Turkey has until April 30 to meet 72 conditions. These include: bringing the security features of Turkish passports up to EU standards; sharing information on forged and fraudulent documents used to travel to the EU and granting work permits to non-Syrian migrants in Turkey.


The European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, said it would issue a report on May 4 on whether Turkey adequately has met all of the conditions to qualify for visa liberalization.


During a hearing at the European Parliament on April 21, Marta Cygan, a director in the Commission's migration and home affairs unit, revealed that to date Ankara has satisfied only 35 of the 72 conditions. This implies that Turkey is unlikely to meet the other 37 conditions by the April 30 deadline, a window of fewer than ten days.


According to Turkish officials, however, Turkey is fulfilling all of its obligations under the EU deal and the onus rests on the European Union to approve visa liberalization — or else.


Addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on April 19, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saidthat Turkey has now reduced the flow of migrants to Greece to an average of 60 a day, compared to several thousand a day at the height of the migrant crisis in late 2015. Davutoglu went on to say that this proves that Turkey has fulfilled its end of the deal and that Ankara will no longer honor the EU-Turkey deal if the bloc fails to deliver visa-free travel by June 30.


European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has insisted that Turkey must meet all 72 conditions for visa-free travel and that the EU will not water down its criteria. But European officials — under intense pressure to keep the migrant deal with Turkey alive — will be tempted to cede to Turkish demands.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on April 20 conceded that for the EU it is not a question of the number of conditions, but rather "how quickly the process is going on." He added: "I believe that at the end, if we continue working like this, most of the benchmarks will be met."


European officials alone are to blame for allowing themselves to be blackmailed in this way. In their haste to stanch the rush of migrants to Europe, they effectively allowed Turkey to conflate the two very separate issues of a) uncontrolled migration into Europe and b) an end to visa restrictions for Turkish nationals.


The original criteria for the visa waiver were established in December 2013 — more than two years before the EU-Turkey deal — by means of the so-called Visa Liberalization Dialogue and the accompanying Readmission Agreement. In it, Turkey agrees to take back third-country nationals who, after having transiting through Turkey, have entered the EU illegally.


By declaring that the visa waiver conditions are no longer binding because the flow of migrants to Greece has been reduced, Turkish officials, negotiating like merchants in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, are running circles around the hapless European officials.


Or, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently proclaimed: "The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union."
The European Union now finds itself in a classic Catch-22 situation. Large numbers of Muslim migrants will flow to Europe regardless of whether or not the EU approves the visa waiver.


Critics of visa liberalization fear that millions of Turkish nationals may end up migrating to Europe. Indeed, many analysts believe that President Erdogan views the visa waiver as an opportunity to "export" Turkey's "Kurdish Problem" to Germany.


Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder, for example, worries that due to Erdogan's persecution of Kurds in Turkey, millions may take advantage of the visa waver to flee to Germany. "We are importing an internal Turkish conflict," he warned, adding: "In the end, fewer migrants may arrive by boat, but more will arrive by airplane."


In an insightful essay, German analyst Andrew Hammel writes:







"Let's do the math. There are currently 16 million Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent in Turkey. There is a long history of discrimination by Turkish governments against this ethnic minority, including torture, forced displacement, and other repressive measures. The current conservative-nationalist Turkish government is fighting an open war against various Kurdish rebel groups, both inside and outside Turkey.
"This means that under German law as it is currently being applied by the ruling coalition in the real world (not German law on the books), there are probably something like 5-8 million Turkish Kurds who might have a plausible claim for asylum or subsidiary protection. That's just a guess, the real number could be higher, but probably not much lower.

"If visa requirements are lifted completely, each of these persons could buy a cheap plane ticket to any German airport, utter the word 'asylum,' and trigger a years-long judicial process with a good chance of ending in a residency permit."


Hammel continues:







"There are already 800,000 Kurds living in Germany. As migration researchers know, existing kin networks in a destination country massively increase the likelihood and scope of migration.... As Turkish Kurds are likely to arrive speaking no German and with limited job skills, just like current migrants, where is the extra 60-70 billion euros/year [10 billion euros/year for every one million migrants] going to come from to provide them all with housing, food, welfare, medical care, education and German courses?


And finally, "the most important, most fundamental, most urgent question of all":







"Why should a peaceful, stable, prosperous country like Germany import from some remote corner of some faraway land a violent ethnic conflict which has nothing whatsoever to do with Germany and which 98% Germans do not understand or care about?"


Turkish-Kurdish violence is now commonplace in Germany, which is home to around three million people of Turkish origin — roughly one in four of whom are Kurds. German intelligence officials estimate that about 14,000 of these Kurds are active supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant group that has been fighting for Kurdish independence since 1974.


On April 10, hundreds of Kurds and Turks clashed in Munich and dozens fought in Cologne. Also on April 10, four people were injured when Kurds and Turks fought in Frankfurt. On March 27, nearly 40 people were arrested after Kurds attacked a demonstration of around 600 Turkish protesters in the Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg.


On September 11, 2015, dozens of Kurds and Turks clashed in Bielefeld. On September 10, more than a thousand Kurds and Turks fought in Berlin. Also on September 10, several hundred Kurds and Turks fought in Frankfurt.


On September 3, more than 100 Kurds and Turks clashed in Remscheid. On August 17, Kurds attacked a Turkish mosque in Berlin-Kreuzberg. In October 2014, hundreds of Kurds and Turks clashed at the main train station in Munich.
In an essay for the Financial Times titled "The EU Sells Its Soul to Strike a Deal with Turkey," columnist Wolfgang Münchau wrote:







"The deal with Turkey is as sordid as anything I have ever 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."

No one can lecture Turkey’: EU leaders praise Erdogan’s refugee effort, shrug off rights concerns


German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C), EU Council President Donald Tusk, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) and his wife Sare (L) pose during a welcoming ceremony at Nizip refugee camp near Gaziantep, Turkey, April 23, 2016 © Umit Bektas
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C), EU Council President Donald Tusk, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) and his wife Sare (L) pose during a welcoming ceremony at Nizip refugee camp near Gaziantep, Turkey, April 23, 2016 © Umit Bektas / Reuters

Top EU officials toured an asylum seekers’ camp in Turkey, praising president Erdogan for his efforts in tackling the refugee inflow. That comes as human rights groups have been particularly vocal in their criticism of Turkey’s treatment of refugees.

The delegation of European dignitaries, which included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk and other officials, came to Turkey in the latest effort to grease the deal under which Ankara has promised to help Europe deal with the refugee crisis.

They visited the camp in Nizip, Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border, which hosts more than 4,800 refugees, the Anadolu News Agency reported. Prior to the Saturday visit Merkel said she intended to see how things on the ground were for the refugees in Turkey.

The host nation was represented by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who personally translated what the refugees were saying to Merkel, as well as his wife, Turkey’s top EU accession negotiator Volkan Bozkir and other Turkish officials.


The European politicians posed with four young women in white ceremonial dress before shaking hands with five Syrian men and their children. All other refugees were hidden and journalists prevented from talking to them.

As the leaders were leaving the camp, several Syrian children chanted “Syria and Turkey are together” in Arabic, Anadolu reported. One of the refugees said: "May Allah give strength to President Erdogan," referring to the Turkish president.

The praises didn’t come from the refugees alone. Speaking at a media conference during the visit, Tusk said: “Turkey is the best example for the whole world (on) how we should treat refugees."

No one has the right to lecture Turkey what to do,” Tusk added.
Merkel described Turkey’s issuing work permits for Syrian refugees as a “very brave step.”

We saw that Syrians were embraced [here] as a society,” she added. "Turkey is the country that accepted the highest number of refugees. EU needs to take responsibility as well.”

The EU pledged to provide 6 billion euros to Turkey in exchange for its help in stemming down the flow of asylum seekers into Europe from the Middle East. 

Ankara also wants the talks of its EU accession unfrozen and EU travel restrictions for Turkish citizens reduced by summer.

The latter appears to be the biggest stumbling block, as the Europeans want to impose certain legislative conditions on Turkey for such liberalization to happen. Ankara is adamant in its position.

We see the visa exemption as an inseparable, fundamental part of the EU-Turkey agreement,” Davutoglu said in the press conference. “Readmission agreement applies only with visa exemption.”


The visit comes as EU officials are facing an increasing public outcry at home over what people perceive as bending to demands from a government that doesn’t share European values. Merkel saw an 11 percent point drop in approval rating after approving criminal prosecution of a comedian, who read a crude poem critical of Erdogan on German national television.

In the Netherlands a scandal flared after the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam urged Turkish citizens to report “messages from people who are insulting our president, the Turkish nation or Turkey in general.” Dutch Ambassador in Turkey Cornelis van Rij had an opportunity to discuss the situation on Friday, while providing explanations about cartoons depicting Erdogan published in the Netherlands, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.

Turkey’s record in tackling refugees is far from clean. This month Amnesty International reported that the country sends Syrians back to its war-torn country in their hundreds daily. Earlier rights groups reported that Turkish border guards were subjecting people fleeing from Syria to summary executions.

Ankara’s response to the allegation is denial.

Some organizations, such as Amnesty International, have been publishing reports based on questionable research,” Davutoglu stated. “Not a single refugee has been sent back from Turkey to Syria against their will.”

The conditions for many refugees are worse than what the European dignitaries had been shown in Nizip. According to the Syria Relief Network, a coalition of NGOs, only a third of child refugees from Syria are going to school in Turkey. Many of those children have to work instead.

Their families may earn only $100 a month, so [the parents] send the children to work,” Abu Shihab, Syrian manager of a sweatshop in Gaziantep that employs Syrian children, told the Guardian.

It’s true the camp in Nizip is very nice,” he added. “But what about those who live outside the camps?”




The Guardian tows the line

Barack Obama hails Angela Merkel over handling of refugees

US president to meet Merkel, Hollande, Renzi and Cameron over EU naval patrols in Libyan waters to stem flow of migrants 



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