May 25, 2016
Erdogan threatens to pull the deal
The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday threatened non-ratification of the migration deal unless the EU grants visa-free travel to Turks, we noted from a report in Tagesschau - as the German media are following every twist in this story for obvious domestic political reasons. He did not mention any dates or deadlines, but said the Turkish parliament would not ratify unless there is a deal over visas without the need for any further Turkish concessions.
Erdogan reinterprets the deal as a straightforward swap of visas against refugees. It was a fudged agreement - like virtually all agreements the EU strikes these days - but this time the fudge does not appear to hold even in the short-term, it seems. Erdogan certainly gives the impression that he is not desperate - he is clearly less desperate than Merkel. He said: "if there is a result, then great. If there is no result, then we are sorry." There are no further criteria for Turkey to meet, he said. His country was not asking for a favour. "What we want is sincerity."
The EU insists on Turkey changing its anti-terror laws, which give the government quasi-dictatorial powers. Erdogan is currently moving in the opposite direction.
We have heard before that Erdogan was less interested in visa-free travel than the former PM Ahmet Davutoglu, which is why he is driving such a hard bargain. The EU will no doubt try its utmost to bend its own requirements - though it is not clear that they will be able to cowtow to Erdogan to quite the degree that now appears necessary for the deal to be ratified. We would, however, expect the EU to try and soften its stance on the quid-pro-quos for visa-free travel. Never underestimate the ability by Brussels to seek out a fudge. The bottom line is: if you strike Faustian pacts with dictators, don't pretend to be shocked about human rights violations.