THE PROPOSED EU AGREEMENT WITH TURKEY: MERKEL'S FOLLY
"For a politician renowned for the caution and the scientific precision she brings to every policy debate, it was an uncharacteristic gamble. Behind the backs of some her closest European allies, Angela Merkel, German chancellor, struck a deal with her Turkish counterpart that could very well end the influx of refugees washing up on Europe’s shores — but at a very high price, including an extra €3bn in aid and a visa-free travel scheme. There are already signs that her new swashbuckling style has its costs. EU diplomats have been left bruised and angered by being cut out of her bilateral dealmaking and risk turning on her when the deal goes before another summit next week for final approval. Some senior officials say the disorderly process belies a potentially transformative outcome. Others are more downcast. “This was one of the lowest points of my time in the EU, an indictment of the way we operate and the way we act,” said one EU ambassador. Her own political allies at home on Tuesday hinted at rebellion over the Turkey pact. It started with a normal, even promising EU process. On Sunday afternoon EU ambassadors in Brussels put the final touches to a summit deal that Donald Tusk, European Council president, saw as a turning point. The western Balkan migration route would be closing and Turkey had agreed to take back non-Syrian migrants. Europe’s tougher approach was taking shape. A few hours later, and a kilometre down the road, Ms Merkel met Ahmet Davutoglu and Mark Rutte, her Turkish and Dutch counterparts, and blew that deal apart. During six hours of talks fuelled by a 1am take-out of Turkish pide, or pizza, the trio explored a bigger idea to turn back every migrant reaching Greek islands. Unlike Mr Tusk’s version, that came with a higher Turkish pricetag: money, visas, and large-scale resettlement of Syrians from Turkey to Europe. Ms Merkel’s bet was that the deal’s arresting potential would help her at home in state elections next week. In the event, only a half-deal was possible, mixing parts of the old and new proposal and leaving details to be sorted. During the process, confusion reigned in the corridors; presidents and premiers bristled at being confronted with Turkey’s “new ideas” as they arrived; frustrations were palpable".Alex Barker & Peter Spiegel, "Angela Merkel takes big gamble on migration deal with Turkey". The Financial Times. 8 March 2016, in www.ft.com.
"On March 7, the political stunt will be for both sides to manage vastly diverging expectations. Europeans, Germans in particular, are obsessed with seeing the numbers of refugee arrivals go down immediately. But the price for making this happen—German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others continuing to publicly forget about fundamental issues in Turkey—is a mistaken strategy that will haunt the EU for decades. It’s high time for European leaders to grasp the bigger picture and act accordingly. The Turkish leadership may see a historic opportunity to play hardball with a weakened Europe and attempt to weaken it further. This is exactly the strategy Russia is following. Such a short-term calculus based on domestic political considerations poses a massive risk for Turkey. The country’s economic, financial, and technological anchor remains Europe, and recent history has proved that Turkey has nowhere else to go in this respect. Will Ankara draw the right lessons? Or will biased analyses, religious considerations, and hubris push Turkey in a riskier and lonelier direction? Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (4th L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (4th R) and other European leaders attend the lunch of a European Union leaders' summit with Turkey on the migrant crisis at the European Council in Brussels, on March 7, 2016. EU leaders held a summit with Turkey's prime minister on March 7 in order to back closing the Balkans migrant route and urge Ankara to accept deportations of large numbers of economic migrants from overstretched Greece. The European Union is hardening its stance in a bid to defuse the worst refugee crisis since World War II by increasingly putting the onus on Turkey and EU member Greece in return for aid. The EU institutions that have spearheaded membership talks with Turkey for two decades felt badly undercut. One senior European diplomat directly involved in Turkey discussions said they had 'never seen a situation where the EU institutions were so undermined and stabbed in the back'".Marc Pierini, "Will Turkey and the EU See the Bigger Picture?" Carnegie Europe. 3 March 2016, in www.carnegieeurope.eu Angel Merkel's handling of the negotiations with Ankara are of a piece with her handling of the entire Migrant crisis: hand to mouth, lacking completely in substance and in concrete planning. In the case of the negotiations with Ankara, greatly needing to be seen as being in control of the migration avalanche from Turkey, she offered up ridiculous concessions (in particular that relating to the visa issue), in the futile hope that the ultra-opportunistic Turkish government would abide by their promises. Given the authoritarian instincts and policies of the regime in Ankara it is (to quote Neville Chamberlain) 'the very mid-summer of madness' to expect anything else. The only mitigating factor in the entire affair is that there is a very good likelihood that Cyprus will veto the agreement (and if not Cyprus then other countries due to the visa aspect of the agreement) 1. Regardless, one can only hope that the catastrophic results of the German regional elections will finally prompt Merkel to abandon her disastrous policy on Migration 2. 1. Peter Spiegel, "Cypriot leader threatens to scupper Merkel’s refugee pact". The Financial Times. 10 March 2016 in www.ft.com. 2. Deutsche Welle. "Germany assesses shake-up following election gains for AfD". 14 March 2016, in www.dw.com.