Observations of an Expat: Refugee Deal in Crisis

June 10, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Chris McGrath

 

By

Tom Arms

The EU-Turkey deal on Syrian refugees is hanging by a thread. If the thread breaks there could be far-reaching consequences for the refugees, the future of the European Union and the future direction of Turkey.

 

Let’s first refresh the details of the deal:

 

1- For every Syrian refugee returned to Turkey another one is taken from Turkey       and settled in Europe.

2- By the end of June, 75 million Turks will be allowed visa free travel in Europe’s     26-nation Schengen Area.

3- Turkey receives $6 billion in aid

4- Negotiations for Turkish membership of the EU are revived

5- Turkey reforms its human rights records

6- The deal has to be approved by the European Parliament and all the EU               member states.

 

No problem with the first three points; despite the fact that international lawyers say that they break every law on refugees. The second three points however, are facing a massive brick wall with foundations that go down through the centuries.

The Europeans—especially those in Eastern Europe have a long memory. It stretches back half a millennium when the Turks of the Ottoman Empire were raping and pillaging through their countryside and bombarding the gates of Vienna.

When Constantinople fell to the forces of Islam in 1453, the Turks became the sprearhead for the Islamization of Europe. Many Europeans regard Islam as the antithesis of their society which they see as based on the principles of Christianity and the 17th century Age of Englightenment. “Islam was never part of Europe. It’s a rulebook of another world,” pronounced Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbán who has emerged as the leading opponent of the refugees and Turkey.

Orbán was quickly vilified as a racist, but he has support. To start with, the leaders of the Czech Republic and Slovakia have lined up behind him. Then there is Cyprus which will block any deal which does not involve the end of Turkish control in Northern Cyprus. Add to that a growing anti-immigration lobby in France, Germany and the Netherlands—all of whose leaders face elections within 12 months. Finally there is Britain’s BREXIT campaign. The UK falls outside the Schengen Area in which visa-less Turks could travel, but that hasn’t stopped the Leave campaigners from claiming that 75 million Turks will be scaling the White Cliffs of Dover on the 1st of July.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not helped the agreement’s cause. Point five was that Turkey would reform its human rights record. Instead, Erdogan has tightened the screws. He is completely focused on a new constitution which will give him near dictatorial powers. To do this he is ruthlessly crushing anyone in his way. He summarily dismissed Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who opposed the constitutional changes, and he has locked up hundreds of academics, journalists and human rights activists and either closed down or taken over opposition newspapers. Finally, he has singled out 138 members of the Turkish parliament who were blocking his path to power and stripped them of their parliamentary immunity.

The last act has particularly angered the European Parliament whose approval is a requirement of the deal. Leading  MEP Rebecca Harms condemned the move as “an unacceptable act” which called into question the wisdom of the agreement.

President Erdogan’s government has responded with a blunt threat: Fulfil the promise to lift visa restrictions by the end of June or Turkey reopens the refugee flood gates.

Three months ago, divisions over the refugees threatened to politically split Europe. Backed against the wall, the European Commission,  made a bad deal with a bad man. If the refugee gates reopen then so will the fissures within Europe. And Turkey, well it can kiss goodbye to any hope of EU membership, but perhaps that’s exactly what Erdogan wants.

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Arms broadcasts on world affairs for a number of US radio stations including WTKF at http://www.wtkf107.com/. His Weekly Viewpoints discussion programme can be heard at 1830 EST on Wednesdays and his LookAhead at the next week’s main events on Fridays at 1800.

 

LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 13th June:

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

Follow Tom Arms on Twitter and Linkedin

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