Sunday, 19 March 2017

Erdogan's blackmail

Erdogan's blackmail could crash the EU once and for all
March 16, 2017 - Fort Russ - 
Ruslan Ostashko, LiveJournal - translated by J. Arnoldski -
17 March, 2017
You’ve probably all heard about the diplomatic scandal between Ankara and Amsterdam. This conflict, which arose after Dutch authorities prevented Turkish ministers from campaigning for Erdogan among the local Turkish diaspora, has already poured over the Netherlands’ borders and could lead to very serious consequences for the entire European Union. 
How did this all start? 
Turkey will soon hold a referendum that is very important for Erdogan. If he wins, he’ll gain virtually unlimited power over Turkey. But in order to win, he needs to enlist the support of the multi-million Turkish diaspora living in EU countries, a large part of whom have kept their Turkish passports, and therefore the right to vote. Erdogan sent his ministers on a promotional tour throughout EU countries to hold thousands-strong rallies of local Turks who support Erdogan’s policies. But alas, in Holland, elections were also scheduled and the Eurosceptic party of Geerd Wilders, who opposes the Islamization of Europe, had significant chances of winning. For the Dutch government, a thousands-strong rally of Turks in support of Erdogan in Amsterdam or any other Dutch city would have been a PR disaster that would once again demonstrate to voters that the Netherlands has all but become a Turkish province. It was decided to avert this catastrophe by preventing the Turkish minister from entering the country and stopping the diaspora from rallying. Unauthorized protests were suppressed with the usual cruelty of a tolerant European country. Dogs and water cannons with cold water were unleashed on protesters.
Erdogan clearly could not tolerate such a public humiliation and opted for retaliatory steps. He stated that the Dutch are “remnants of the Nazis” and “fascists,” which took the conflict to a new level. Several European leaders expressed solidarity with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte, especially Angela Merkel, and Erdogan’s emissaries started being banned across the EU, as were Turkish rallies.
In response, the Turkish President accused Germany of using “Nazi practices”, which did not win him any sympathy in Berlin. Merkel stated that the attacks on her were absurd, and stressed that she would not stoop to such “provocation competitions” initiated by Turkey. 
This whole affair might have remained a funny episode in Turkish-European relations had Ankara not decided to raise the stakes once again.
According to the British TV channel ITV, Turkish Vice Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that Europe has not fulfilled its part of the agreement on refugees. To recall, the EU and Turkey concluded an agreement on temporarily freezing the so-called “refugee crisis” that recently erupted in Europe due to the influx of immigrants from Middle Eastern countries, many of whom came to Europe through Turkey. The deal between Erdogan and the European leadership was simple: Europe would pay money, and Erdogan would not allow refugees into Europe. If the deal really is broken, this could have very serious consequences. 
This year, elections are being held not only in Holland, but also France and Germany. If Erdogan really does open the “refugee tap”, then this would be a serious blow to the electoral prospects of Angela Merkel’s party and might even raise Marine Le Pen’s chances of winning in France. 
The migrant problem is already so acute that if the number of migrants starts to rapidly grow, then no propaganda or tales of Russian hackers will impress voters, who are justified in fearing the growth of ethnic criminality and terrorism, not to mention the huge sums to be allocated for resettling and maintaining hundreds of thousands or even millions of new refugees. 
The situation is complicated by the fact that European countries’ leaderships have simply no plain and quick solutions to solve this potential crisis. Establishing a secure external border for the EU in only a few months is impossible. Sending warships to sink refugee boats off of the Greek coast is possible, but would be a PR disaster for the EU leadership. And who among European politicians would dare give such an order leading to the death of hundreds or even thousands of civilians? Building processing camps or expelling migrants en masse would create more problems. Besides the fact that Merkel would once again be accused of “Nazi practices,” it would be very difficult for her to explain to Germans why the migrants that have already come to Germany can’t be sent to these camps and then back where they came from.
It turns out that at least until September, when Germany holds elections, Ankara has the perfect tool for blackmailing the whole EU leadership. Apparently, for now the agreement with the EU has not been formally broken and the harsh proclamations on this matter are not being made by the Turkish leader, but by his subordinates. Thus, we are witnessing a typical example of diplomatic bargaining. 
Erdogan needs European politicians to apologize in the most humiliating way. When Turkish voters see that leading European politicians grovel before Erdogan, his rating will skyrocket. In the very least, Erdogan is hoping for this, otherwise it would make no sense to abandon the billions of euros that the EU pays for containing waves of refugees. 
The problem is that Merkel, Rutte, and other European politicians cannot afford to lose face and make concessions. They’ve already branded the Turkish leader a dictator who stifles democracy and doesn't share European values. The situation is gradually becoming hopeless.
There is the chance that the EU will bribe Erdogan this time, but the bribe would need to be very big and handed over without European voters knowing, since voters themselves already seriously dislike the behavior of European politicians. There is also the chance that Erdogan could hold off only to negotiate for a bigger bribe later. 
And here we are faced with simply wonderful possibilities. 
If Turkey drowns Angela Merkel and her party’s electoral chances, then our relations with the EU could quickly be amended. And if a catastrophic influx of refugees were to begin in the next few days and influence the elections in France, then the EU could simply cease to exist altogether. Based on the foregoing, I hope with all my soul that the EU leadership and Turkey will start swinging at each other once and for all. We’ll be just fine. 

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