Refugees: stalemate between EU and Turkey

A crisis meeting in Brussels on Monday between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel ended without concrete results. A meeting in Istanbul between Erdoğan, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel has been scheduled for next week. The three leaders will discuss the fate of the refugees gathered at the Turkish-Greek border and the situation in Syria. Both Ankara and the EU are taken to task in press commentaries.

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Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Europe lacks friends

Diário de Notícias observes that with its disparate domestic and foreign policies the EU has discredited itself as a serious political player in international conflicts:

“For decades Europe has claimed that the US asserts its power through weapons while the EU uses political incentives, public funds, dialogue and neutral non-interference to exert a positive influence on the countries around it. … But Europe has no circle of friends and is only repeating what Prodi said [in 2004 as President of the European Commission]: We must be a global player. … A common foreign policy will result from the existence of common interests, not from the will of stable or temporary majorities. And the best way to achieve a common European interest is to consolidate a common single market.”

Avgi (GR) /

EU can't represent Athens on this matter

It is imperative that Greece itself be present at the talks, Avgi argues:

“According to government circles, Athens is doing all it can to secure a place at the negotiating table. ... The question is whether this is really possible. After all, the Greek government has shown little enthusiasm in recent months for restoring an open line of dialogue at the highest level [with Ankara]. But Athens must be present at these talks, because each side has its own interests - and the interests of the EU are not uniform. ... As long as Erdoğan keeps pushing refugees towards Evros there will be no agreement with the EU. We assume that Athens will not allow that to happen. This makes negotiations difficult - and compromises will be necessary both on the Turkish and the European side.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Europe ducking responsibility

Regarding migration policy the EU has been content to use tricks and shy away from binding commitments, Krytyka Polityczna complains:

“In 2017 the European Court of Justice pointed out with regard to the agreement with Turkey that it wasn't the EU that had concluded an agreement with Ankara but that the deal of March 2016 was concluded by 'the leaders of the individual member states with the Turkish government'. ... In this way the court conveniently evaded its responsibility of judging whether human rights are being violated when refugees are sent back from behind European borders. The use of non-binding instruments to shape the EU's migration and asylum policy is unfortunately becoming an increasingly common practice.”

The Independent (GB) /

An unscrupulous competition

The Independent is stunned by the EU's inaction:

“The EU, which is ultimately the only organisation that can provide a solution, has so far proposed nothing that would alleviate the situation, preferring instead to throw money at it. In this way, they are admitting that they are comfortable with parts of Greece (and Italy) becoming permanent prisons for those trying to reach the 'core' EU countries. ...It's been said, time and time again, that this major issue cannot be resolved with a competition between the EU and Turkey, about who can help the refugees the least. And yet, that is precisely what Europe has chosen to do.”

Sözcü (TR) /

Ankara stands alone

Erdoğan failed to secure any results from his important visit to Brussels, complains columnist Emin Çölaşan in Sözcü:

“He should have said that he was successful, but he didn't. Or that he was able to convince the others and that they would now do what was necessary. But he didn't say that either. ... We expected the pro-government media to once again loudly proclaim victory and explain it all to us, but that didn't happen. In this vast world the government stands alone - which it won't admit. ... Silence reigns regarding the events in Syria. Sadly I'm sure that soon fingers will once more be squeezing the trigger and new battles will begin. ... And don't be surprised if fighting breaks out soon on the Greek border too!”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Greece's messages must be understood

Athens has sent a double message, Kathimerini explains:

“Closing the border was the right decision. It conveyed a message to Ankara that its blackmail will not pass, and to Europe that Greece is not a human dumping ground. The Greeks saw their government take tough decisions to protect the national interest. Turkey will hopefully understand that the Greek border is also the European border. The Europeans will hopefully see the need to abolish the Dublin Regulation and find extra funds to tackle the issue.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Time for commitment and understanding

Both sides need to revise their strategies, Istanbul correspondent Susanne Güsten explains in Der Tagesspiegel:

“Turkey must realise that it cannot blackmail the EU into cooperating. At a time like this, when the Turkish alliance with Russia is shaky in Syria, Ankara needs its partners in the West more than ever. It would be unwise for it to offend Europe. Europe should show understanding for Turkish interests in Syria. The aversion to Erdoğan, which shapes the policy towards Turkey in many EU capitals, is not conducive to a rational approach to the country. Turkey has a 900-kilometre-long border with Syria and sees the conflict affecting its southern neighbour from a very different perspective than the politicians in Berlin or Paris. The EU should rather try to play a more active role in the search for a solution to the Syrian conflict than it has done so far.”

Dilema Veche (RO) /

Resolute action and pressure would be better

The EU should stand up to Erdoğan, the weekly Dilema Veche urges:

“If we experience this year a refugee crisis similar to the one in 2015, the repercussions for European policy will be unpredictable. The idea that Erdoğan could shift European values is unacceptable. ... Just for a change, the Europeans could try to show resolve this time. Instead of praising their advantages, they should withdraw them. Instead of negotiating, they should impose conditions. Instead of pretending Erdoğan is legitimate, they should remind him of the Turkish elites behind bars. Instead of avoiding problems, they should confront them. So many Turks would be grateful to them if they did.”

Sabah (TR) /

Turkey wants support in Syria

Erdoğan opened Turkey's borders to get the EU to finally find a sustainable solution to the refugee question, the pro-government daily Sabah writes:

“It is not our intention to send all refugees to Europe or to overthrow the EU - nor should it be. On the contrary, for human and strategic reasons our first commitment is to ensuring that these people can return to their countries. Turkey has already established a safe zone in northern Syria. Now about two million of the migrants can move to the region. However, this costs money. If Europe wants to be spared the influx of migrants, to stand up to Russia and to take a place in Syria's future, it must contribute to the construction of settlements in these regions.”

Pravda (SK) /

Refugees falling prey to power politics

Pravda is sceptical about the possible new refugee deal between the EU and Turkey:

“The 2016 agreement was morally questionable from the start, and ran contrary to international law. What's more, it soon also proved to be unsustainable: it made the EU dependent on the will of an autocrat who abused refugees without scruples for his own political ends. Greece - and hundreds of thousands of refugees trapped in this power game - are now paying the price of this. Those who do nothing to help them become part of the problem.”