Is the refugee deal with Ankara collapsing?

Ankara has repeatedly threatened to ditch the refugee deal with the EU if Turks are not granted visa-free travel by October. The beginning of August already saw Turkish officials responsible for repatriating refugees being called back from Greece. For the EU the deal is neither politically desirable nor necessary in practical terms, commentators conclude.

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Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

EU policy aimed at frustrating refugees

Greece sent refugees back to Turkey for the second day in a row on Thursday. The deportations, carried out within the framework of the EU's refugee deal with Ankara, were the first since the failed coup in Turkey. The EU has achieved its goal but not because of the refugee deal, the daily paper Efimerida ton Syntakton stresses:

“The long delays in the asylum procedure, the fact that the refugees are left trapped on the islands, the closed borders of Fortress Europe and the uncertainty about whether they will be allowed to live in safety and dignity in Europe are clearly far more expedient for the EU than the EU-Turkey deal itself. It's as if in many cases making the refugees' life unbearable, as the EU policy is now doing, is seen as a success, albeit an inhumane one. Greece is once again in the spotlight, but this time it seems to be the result of the definitive abandonment of European values.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Double standards on EU visa-free travel

Denying visa-free travel to Turkey is a political decision on the part of the EU, Hürriyet Daily News comments:

“It is clear that if Europe wants to maintain cooperation with Turkey on issues like illegal migration, refugees and combatting terrorism, it will have to take an executive decision regarding the visa issue. This will be easier to do since Ankara has fulfilled most technical preconditions, with only a few left. There appear to be political rather than practical considerations behind the EU's throwing the book at Turkey in this manner. After all, citizens of Mexico (population: 122 million), Columbia (47 million) and Venezuela (30 million) - to name just a few countries - can enter Europe without a Schengen visa, although their countries are not candidates for membership. Neither are these countries high on the list of democratic countries that respect human rights to the letter. Most Turks may have been ignorant of such glaring inconsistencies by the EU in the past but they are learning fast.”

Standart (BG) /

Close borders before it's too late

If the refugee pact with Turkey collapses, Bulgaria must be prepared, warns the Standart:

“According to Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán migrants from 101 countries have travelled through Hungary. Obviously these were not just the victims of political persecution or war refugees as defined by the Geneva Convention. ... The European refugee policy has failed. There is no Europe-wide solution, countries have started taking border control into their own hands. ... Bulgaria can no longer afford to wait, especially because there is no one it can rely on apart from the Viségrad states. We have to protect ourselves because any minute hordes of refuges could be released that have no other choice but to come to Bulgaria.”

Dimokratia (GR) /

Greece already overstretched

An end to the refugee agreement with Turkey would further highlight the incompetence of the Greek government, Dimokratia complains:

“Greece would be faced with the biggest burden and the biggest threat. The country would explode. … The tourism sector on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Kos and Samos is already in ruins. … The Greek politicians made big promises, opening the border and inviting refugees and migrants to Greece without any plan or infrastructure in place, and signed the pact with Ankara. The 60,000 or so poor refugees trapped in Greece [after the closure of the Balkan route] are now seeing the lack of organisation and irresponsibleness of our leaders, which had already topped all previous records.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The West is powerless against Erdoğan

The Turkish president is playing the strongman and unfortunately there is nothing to stop him, La Repubblica laments:

“Erdoğan isn't afraid of Europe. He blackmails it with refugees that he is ready to use as a weapon at the drop of a hat. He's not afraid of Nato, because he's in charge of the second-strongest army in the Alliance. And he's not afraid of the US, either. On the contrary: with the blockade of İncirlik he has threatened the US, which uses the military base there for its missions against the IS in Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately we have little means at our disposal to stop the new sultan. In the coming week he'll meet with Putin after several months of chilly relations. No doubt they'll get on famously: they both speak the same language and have the same attitude towards power.”

Večer (SI) /

Can Merkel stick to her current course?

The pressure from Ankara will ultimately bring about a change in Berlin's refugee policy, Večer believes:

“Now that Erdoğan has mobilised his supporters under Merkel's nose and got tens of thousands to march through Germany's streets, it's clear that he can mobilise this army of support at will across Europe. In Turkey Erdoğan fanned negative opinions of Germany when a state-owned daily portrayed Merkel as Hitler. ... The positive side of all this is that Angela Merkel will now finally start talking with EU leaders about a joint solution, instead of simply presenting her own. But is she still strong enough? Does she have enough time, bearing in mind the upcoming elections? She will delay everything as much as she can, no doubt until the EU summit this autumn. Then we'll see what she comes up with, and if she has the strength to push through her solutions.”

Pravda (SK) /

Europe must take responsibility for refugee crisis

Turkey's threats are completely unacceptable as far as Pravda is concerned:

“Since the purges Turkey can't carry out the ultimatum issued by Erdoğan's foreign minister. So it is good that Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has made a clear statement: 'Germany must not let allow itself to be blackmailed by Turkey.' That would only encourage Erdoğan to come along with new demands. … Europe must become more self-reliant. The billions Brussels promised Ankara would be better invested in protecting the Greek outer border. The money is there, what is lacking is the will. Yet it's clear that the migration crisis will escalate once more. If the Europeans don't take their security into their own hands now in a few years' time it could be too late.”

ABC (ES) /

Megalomaniac wants to break Europe's will

Erdoğan and his government have gone too far, ABC complains:

“Visa-free travel is politically and legally unfeasible. And it entails huge risks now that Erdoğan has shedded all scruples and is using force to do whatever he likes in his country. If he steps up his military operations in some regions of the country it could lead to an exodus of millions of Kurds to Europe. And additional hundreds of thousands of Turks may also go into exile. ... Ankara has condemned the German Constitutional Court's ban on him addressing 20,000 supporters live on screen in Cologne. By the looks of it, Erdoğan believes he can influence Germany's domestic and foreign policy. And now he wants to use the refugees in Turkey to pursue his megalomaniac plan of legitimising his dictatorship, breaking the will of the Europeans and creating a power base that will destabilise the entire continent.”

Der Standard (AT) /

EU must stay calm

Despite Ankara's threats Europe should maintain the ties with the country, Der Standard recommends:

“Turkey is jeopardising any chances it has of a close partnership with the EU right now. For a country that has a huge trade deficit (at least ten percent of its exports go to Germany) that borders on hara-kiri. Things could soon get tight for it with loans and then investments. So how should the EU member states react? Unlike Erdoğan the EU representatives must stay calm but be firm when it comes to maintaining agreements and treaties, particularly those regarding human rights. Europe will help the Turkish people, the persecuted and also the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey best if it keeps trying to use its influence at all levels - without ruling out diplomatic force.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Turkey has a lot more to lose

The EU needn't take Ankara's threat seriously, Die Welt comments:

“The ultimatum makes clear once again that different values prevail in Turkey than in Europe right now. Brussels and Berlin were right to opt for a relaxed response to the new threats. The influx of refugees is far smaller than a few months ago. But this change in trend is not due to the agreement with Turkey. The closure of the Balkan route across countries like Macedonia, Hungary and Austria is what has stopped refugees entering the EU via Turkey. … The EU is paying a lot of money, as agreed, to help Turkey take care of the refugees. So Ankara has a lot to lose. Despite all his threatening gestures Erdoğan won't break off relations with Europe - even if visa-free travel never materialises ”