August 26, 2016
Will the refugee crisis return?
Frankfurter Allgemeine has an interview with Bojko Borisov, the Bulgarian prime minister, who warned of a return of the refugee crisis. If the Turkey-EU deal fails - as he expects it will if the EU does not deliver its part of the bargain - he would expect the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make good on his threats to flood Europe with immigrants. The problems with threats like these is that you eventually have to fulfil them, or lose your credibility, he said. He complains of a lack of support by the EU for his country, and says Bulgaria was not able to withstand the migration pressure at its borders for much longer. This Saturday, Borisov will meet with Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia, to discuss the strategy. Merkel has failed to win over for refugee quotas the centre-left government of the Czech Republic. Austria's defence minister Hans Peter Doskozil said the situation in Italy was comparable to that of Hungary in the summer of 2015, which triggered the large refugee streams to northern Europe.
Wolfgang Weisgram recalls in Austria's Der Standard that tomorrow is the first anniversary of the day when a truck was found in Austria with over 60 dead refugees. That horrific incident was the symbolic start of the refugee crisis. One and a half million refugees later, the crisis has triggered a deeper and wider confrontation about the future of Europe. The outcome of this historic process is unknown, but its beginning can be timed accurately. It started a year ago.
Greece, meanwhile, faces new challenges with Turkey as seven Turkish civilians arrived in Alexandroupoli and Rhodes expected to request asylum. Their case is set to put yet more strain on already tense relations between the traditional rivals after eight Turkish officers fled to Greece in the aftermath of the attempted coup, Kathimerini reports. Ankara has demanded the immediate extradition of the officers to stand trial for treason. Greece said the decision will rest with its courts, which are independent. Amid the threat that the death penalty could be reintroduced, will Athens allow their extradition to a country where they may risk of torture and execution, or accept a deterioration of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries?
We think it is highly likely that the refugee crisis will return because of the continuation of the war in Syria, in which Turkey is now getting involved as well, and because Erdogan is very likely to break the deal if the EU fails to liberalise the visa regime. This it cannot do now, even though we are sure the EU would fudge were it not for recent events. We would not be surprised if Erdogan used the German election year of 2017 as the moment for his diplomatic counter-offensive against Merkel, who would be politically most at risk from a return of the refugee crisis. It is the only scenario that could lead to a genuine election upset in Germany - one of the reasons we will continue to monitor the situation closely.