May 16, 2016
Is the Erdogan deal on the brink of collapse?
Spiegel Magazine has a news analysis which says that the deal with Turkey is on the brink of collapse. We are not sure that this is entirely so. We reported last week that the EU has opened backdoor channels, and some politicians may be willing to cave in to whatever Turkey is demanding. But it is clear that the deal is in considerable trouble. The fundamental point is that hardly anyone, other than Angela Merkel personally, has much of an interest in this deal. And this includes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself. He does not want to change his country's anti-terror laws, as requested by the EU as a precondition for visa-free travel. The EU itself will have difficulty granting the visa waiver if the laws do not get changed. And, inside Germany, the SPD is using the deal to score points against the CDU which makes CDU backbenchers nervous. The SPD has not gained any points from the CDU in the polls, but a majority of Germans sided with the SPD in its criticism of Angela Merkel's betrayal of freedom of speech in Germany when she allowed Erdogan to sue a German satirist.
But the real problem lies in Turkey. The article says that Erdogan believes that the EU will ultimately back down on the visa issue (this is not an entirely unrealistic calculation, in our view, given that the EU will go to extremes to save Merkel's political career). If not, Turkey is certain to rescind the deal. The article quoted an insider who said that Turkey would not even need to send the refugees in buses to the Greek border. All they would need to do is stop patrolling the Turkish west coast, and to stop taking refugees back from Greece. This would have dramatic consequences for Greece within a short period of time.
Another area of concern for the EU is a planned constitutional change the Turkish parliament is due to vote on next week that would allow parliamentary immunity to be lifted. This would endanger the Kurdish MPs in particular. Another breaking point could be a resolution by the German parliament to commemorate the Turkish genocide of Armenians in 1915. Last year the Bundestag postponed the resolution, but the coalition partners are now determined to press ahead given Erdogan's behaviour.
This is Spiegel's overall assessment of the wider impact of a failure of the deal:
A failure of the deal would seriously damage Europe's relations with Turkey for years to come and could result in a return of the refugee crisis. But the consequences would be significant for Merkel as well. It would mark the largest and most significant failure of her time in office in an area that has long been seen as her greatest strength: foreign policy.
Greece, meanwhile, is not meeting the targets for sending back refugees to Turkey. The number is 400 out of 8,500 arrivals since March 20. The Greeks say this reflects a higher number of approved asylum cases. So, even with the deal, there is a danger that Greece might be swamped with refugees during the summer.
Camino Mortera-Martinez fears that Schengen might unravel. The EU-Turkey deal and the closure of the west Balkan routes may have reduced the flow of migrants temporarily, but this improvement may not last long. The EU-Turkey deal might crumble, and the asylum seekers may divert and try to get to Europe by sea via Libya and Italy. And that means border controls would be there to stay, and Schengen would be in danger of collapse. She proposes: better funded hotspots; quota systems; external border controls; and new asylum procedures, including sending failed applicants home much faster.