Huffington Post Greece – Nov. 30, 2019
Europe is experiencing a difficult transition period internally and externally, which can foreshadow many evils. The far right is clearly on the rise and has already begun to influence the political scene in some European countries, such as Denmark and Austria, and is threatening to dominate France and Italy. This development comes in the light of Moscow’s increasing control over Europe’s oil and gas energy needs, despite European governments’ knowledge that this dependence will turn Moscow into a weapon against Europe and NATO in any conflict that may arise in the future. Thus, we conclude that the refugee/migrant issue remains and will remain a major issue for a long time as Ankara continues to threaten to flood the continent with millions of refugees and migrants.
At this sensitive juncture, the young French president with superficial experience is responsible for Europe’s overall policy on domestic and international affairs, supports the war in Libya, fuels tension with Ankara and sends love messages to Moscow under the table. I will try, in this article, to analyze the mistakes that, in my view, Europe has made in the last ten years and which have led to the scene we are experiencing today.
In March 2011, the Syrian revolution against the dictatorship of the Assad regime broke out. The protests spread to Syrian cities and villages, and the Syrian regime deliberately used all the means of violence at its disposal to stop this revolution in the shadow of the real silence of Europe and the international community. Looking back, we will remember that Europe, during the Cold War, turned into a tool in Washington’s hands that complied with US foreign policy requirements. If Washington orders a war, Europe will follow, as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But in Syria, Washington has decided not to get involved. And while Syrian civilians were dying day by day, Europe was watching silently and praying that the revolution would end or Assad wins, despite the fact that European rulers knew that if six months after the outbreak of the revolution the scene continued, refugees will move to European shores, as the experience of Afghanistan and Iraq has been enough to perceive the developments. However, Europe continued to turn a blind eye to the Syrian drama, something that was confirmed a few weeks ago by former German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel saying that Germany has repeatedly rejected Turkey’s request to impose a no-fly zone on Syrian airspace. Those of us dealing with the Syrian crisis, have known it ever since.
Had this been implemented, the number of victims and refugees would have been drastically reduced, and Assad would have been brought to the negotiating table for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Despite the ease and simplicity of this step, Europe rejected Turkey’s request and refused to stop a crisis coming to its shores. I wonder, did the Europeans deliberately avoid it or are they naive politicians?
Concerning the attempt by some to say that the Syrian scene is complex and could lead Europe to a war with the Syrian regime, I remind them that Europe has already entered war in Libya to overthrow Gaddafi without thinking at all of the implications of this step.
Greece, June 2015
With the ongoing massacres of the Assad regime against peaceful demonstrators, the conflict has turned into armed, increasing the level of violence to a point of insanity, which has led millions of Syrians to displace. Part of them went to the neighboring Arab countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, while the greater part went to Turkey, which was more open to refugees, as was clearly seen by the statements of Turkish officials and Erdoğan himself, where they were treated as guests. This encouraged more than three and a half million Syrian refugees to enter Turkish territory.
The atmosphere in Europe can be understood from the situation in Greece. During the years 2011 and 2012, the number of arrivals was very low. It increased gradually by the end of 2014, but according to figures from many statistics centers, Syrian refugees arriving in Europe did not exceed 100,000 in four years. The Turkish authorities managed to control the flow and the Greek authorities in cooperation with the authorities of North Macedonia and Albania succeeded in preventing the deterioration of the situation and limiting its expansion to Western Europe.
In early June 2015, a new development without proper preparation prompted Turkey, Greece and North Macedonia to open their borders and facilitate the transit of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Western Europe. This scene continued until the signing of the agreement on preventing the flow of refugees between the EU and Turkey on March 21, 2016, which basically brought things back to where they were before June 2015.
In my attempt to understand what happened then and after a thorough investigation, I came to the conclusion that the development of June 2015 was due to the orders given to Turkey, Greece and North Macedonia to open their borders. That mandate came from a European country most welcoming to refugees: Germany, which at that time was defining European Union policy. Germany, entering the 21st century in dire need of a very young age workforce as all relevant studies indicate, was the cause of the influx of some 600,000 Syrian refugees into western Europe. In my January 2017 speech, I listed all these facts.
Between 2011 and 2015
Leaving the Greek coast and scrutinizing the Italian one, certainly the atmosphere there was no better because of the wrong and selfish European policies. The Libyan revolution against Gaddafi was the gateway for two European countries to get the most out of Libya’s oil and gas. NATO leaders have responded immediately to the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations and have recognized the need to protect Libyan citizens. Thus, NATO’s military intervention to overthrow Gaddafi’s regime was without hesitation. Indeed, under the leadership of France and Italy, they succeeded in overthrowing Gaddafi with the backing of the Libyan rebels, killing him and launching a very sensitive phase in Libyan history. Paris and Rome, while aware that post-Gaddafi Libya needed support and organization to rebuild a political system that would lead to the restoration of peace, security and stability, did not move in that direction. They got into an indirect conflict with each other about who will get the biggest share of the Libyan oil pie. This conflict was the immediate cause of the conversion of the Libyan territory into a corridor for thousands of migrants from the African continent to the Italian coast.
The present atmosphere in Europe is characterized by calm before the storm. Europe has failed to fulfill its obligations to Turkey and has made Greece the scapegoat. Turkey continues to deploy its safe zone in northeast Syria against Kurdish militias and will preserve refugee paper as a threatening tool against Europe. Ankara will use this paper in the Cyprus issue, Eastern Mediterranean natural gas and visa files as well. In addition, it will try to blackmail Europe into rebuilding the safe zone to raise billions of dollars to revitalize the Turkish economy. Otherwise, it will open the borders.
In Libya, meanwhile, the conflict between Paris and Rome has begun to spiral out of control and fall into the hands of Moscow, which has stepped into the country under cover of the Haftar militia. While Moscow is stepping up its presence on the Syrian coast, Europe is quietly withdrawing from eastern Syria. And while Russia is stepping up its aggressive moves in the northern part of the European continent, President Macron is moving towards establishing a soft relationship with Moscow. However, even within Europe, the scene is no better in view of the continued rise of far-right parties.
After this simple interpretation of what happened and what is happening in and around Europe, it is certain that we will face more complex crises in the future, unless European leaders take serious steps to resolve them under a unified leadership and away from conflicts between each other. Let us hope that Syria and Libya will be the starting points to repair the damage they have caused themselves.