The exploitation of refugee card in the Turkey-EU conflict

Huffington Post Greece – Aug. 28, 2017

Since the beginning of August there has been a gradual increase in the number of refugees arriving from Turkey to the Greek islands. The number of entrants has reached about 2.400, while only on the 21st and the 22nd of the month it reached 400 people. This development has created reasonable fears in the Greek government for the deterioration of the situation and the return to the pre-signature of the EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement in early 2016, after which the crossing of the Turkish on the Greek coasts almost stopped. Throughout the previous period, Turkey has kept the deal and has done what it should do. However, the other side continues to avoid complying with its obligations, the most important of which is the lifting of the EU entry visa for Turkish citizens and the payment of 6 billion euros. Both have not yet been fulfilled.

It is clear that the tension between Turkey-Europe relations and particularly between Turkey and Germany recently is the reason behind what is happening on Greek coasts. A Turkish source has assured me that the Turkish government has given green light to the Turkish Coast Guard to reduce its anti-immigrant mobility in the Aegean Sea. They have also instructed the Turkish secret services to reduce their operations against smugglers. So things will get worse in the coming days and weeks.

The tension between Turkey and Germany began at the beginning of this year when the Turkish parliament announced its intention to make constitutional amendments through which the administrative authority in the Turkish state was transferred from the Prime Minister to the President of the Republic and which was considered by Germany and other countries of the European Union a dangerous step against freedoms in Turkey. As a result, European governments have launched a verbal and media war against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling party, while many Turkish officials have been prevented from making speeches on their territory.

As the German elections approached, the candidates, led by German Chancellor Merkel, began to use hate vocabulary against the Turkish President and his government as an electoral tool to attract voters. This led Erdoğan to ask the Turks living in Germany, estimated at 3 million, not to vote in favor of these parties. In the context of this great tension between the two countries, Greece remains in the middle and is most directly affected by it. The most important issue for the Greek people is the existence of an alternative plan in the event that the EU-Turkey agreement will collapse.

Although the European Union and the United Nations have allocated enormous sums of money to support the financially squeezed Greek government in the refugee crisis and since a significant part of these funds may not have reached its destination, this aid will never be enough to face a massive refugee entry if Turkey fully opens its coastline. The solution to this crisis is to distance Greece from the refugees by opening its northern borders. Refugees and migrants do not wish to remain in Greek territory, but want to go to Western European countries. FYROM is likely to take the same step as it did in the summer of 2015 when Europe’s large wave of refugees and immigrants arrived. In this way, Greece will emerge from political conflicts that is not actually part of them.

Turkey is currently experiencing its toughest moments. It is called upon to confront the Syrian crisis and the strengthening of the Kurdish militias associated with the PKK on its southern borders, on the one hand, the international crisis with the EU and NATO due to the purchase of Russian S-400 and their impact on the integrated military system of the alliance on the other, as well as the referendum in the Iraqi Kurdistan region that is a nightmare if it is finally realized. Therefore, Turkey continues to believe that shameful trading for political benefits of a humanitarian crisis and human lives fleeing death is the appropriate means to pressure EU countries to settle their accounts with it.