What does Turkey's Erdoğan seek from the new migration crisis with Europe?
We have been here before. As in 2015-16, around 10,000 of refugees and asylum seekers are massed at
There have been ugly scenes of Greek border police using tear gas and brute force to push migrants back. Athens has deployed special forces to guard the border from unarmed, angry civilians. European leaders would rather have those Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis stay in Turkey. Even without an uptick of migrant arrivals, right-wing populists are gaining. Witness the recent debacle in Thuringia in which German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer resigned from the Christian Democratic Union, upending Angela Merkel’s well-crafted plan for an orderly succession. The Merkels and the Macrons of this world fear that a new mass wave of migrants heading for the EU would cause electoral havoc.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan knows that all too well and thinks, not without good reason, he can manipulate European elites’ fears to his own advantage. By allowing refugees massing at the border he is aiming to kill several birds with one stone. First, that would distract Turkish society’s attention away from the fighting in Idlib. Second, enlist support from major European states that would otherwise prefer to keep away from the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Syria. Third, and more long-term, extend the 2016 deal struck with EU for another period but tweak its terms to his maximum benefit.
It is questionable whether and how Erdoğan can shift the focus away from Idlib. The brawl between the ruling AKP and opposition deputies at the Grand National Assembly on March 4 demonstrates the undeclared war against the Assad regime is and will remain a salient issue polarising the public.
The Turkish president is doing much better with regard to his second objective. German chancellor Angela Merkel has now reportedly come out in favour of a safety zone under Turkish tutelage in the Idlib province. She also blamed Putin for cancelling the proposed four-way summit with Macron, Erdoğan and herself, and half-heartedly opting for a bilateral meeting with the Turkish leader instead. Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karenbauer, until recently Merkel’s heir apparent, confirmed that
The devil, as ever, is in the details. EU leaders no doubt would prefer the three million displaced Syrians cornered in Idlib stay where they are, an interest they share with Erdoğan. But there are no answers to key questions. Are
Erdoğan’s claim that Turkey has seen none of the money, while spending 40 billion euros from its national coffers, is not true. But as much as he loves to censure the Europeans’ hypocrisy and threaten them that all 3.6 million Syrians currently in
Again, the battle will be fought over the small print. Erdoğan is demanding that in the future the EU will be paying upfront a lump sum into