March 20, 2016
The EU-Turkey Statement of March 18, 2016 starts with these two paragraphs (*):
“Today the Members of the European Council met with their Turkish counterpart. This was the third meeting since November 2015 dedicated to deepening Turkey-EU relations as well as addressing the migration crisis.
“The Members of the European Council expressed their deepest condolences to the people of Turkey following the bomb attack in Ankara on Sunday. They strongly condemned this heinous act and reiterated their continued support to fight terrorism in all its forms.”
Dictionaries define “as well as” in the following way: “and in addition”, “and also”. So, at first look, one may assume that the “meeting of the Members of the European Council and their Turkish counterparts” was essentially about “deepening Turkey-EU relations” and “in addition” or “and also” they addressed the migration crisis. Wrong!
The Statement contains 1255 words. The first two paragraphs above, including the title and the date, contain 78 words. The two final paragraphs on monitoring and future meetings contain 36.
The two paragraphs regarding visa liberalization and Turkey’s accession process and two other brief references to these altogether contain 216 words. The migration crisis is dealt with a total of 925 words. Thus, the brief the mention in the first paragraph to “deepening Turkey-EU relations” is not even a fig leaf to cover the single agenda item of this meeting. At least for the EU, this meeting was first and foremost about the migration crisis.
Turks used to say that Turkey’s accession to the EU would contribute to EU’s becoming a global power. Four years ago I wrote that, although I agreed with this line of thinking, I had doubts about the EU having such an ambition. I said that the priority of the average European is security, stability and the highest possible standard of living and that this was understandable. I added that Europe represents the right values, regardless of discrepancies between its public discourse and its deeds, we too should defend these values not only for ourselves but try to promote them in our region as well.
Beyond its economic achievements, the EU has covered little distance in using its collective strength to become a global power. Major EU countries always carry more weight on the international scene than the sum of its members. The United Kingdom and France are members of the UN Security Council. Germany is Europe’s de facto leader. Their individual leaders can exercise disproportionate influence in shaping policies with consequences for all EU members. President Chirac wisely and strongly cautioned against the US invasion of Iraq. But the outgoing French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius recently criticized President Obama’s decision not to launch airstrikes in August 2013, after it was determined that the Syrian government had crossed Mr. Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons. This was despite the Sarkozy-Cameron led misguided intervention in Libya. Earlier the UE had mismanaged the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Later, it mishandled the Ukrainian crisis and finally misjudged Assad’s capacity to survive. European response to the migrant crisis was no different.
As for Turkey, presenting the “migrant deal” and the prospective “visa free travel”, if it comes to that, as a historic moment in Turkey-EU relations and a great step forward is nothing but an attempt to mislead. During Justice and Development Party’s earlier years in power the atmosphere was a hundred times more positive than today, yet the accession process could only inch forward this far in mutual frustration. Now it is Turkey’s nuisance value combined with the European obsession to stop the influx of migrants and that is again not going to take us very far.
A few days ago Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who negotiated the nuclear deal with six world powers was in Ankara as a guest of his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. During their joint press conference, the latter underlined the importance Turkey attached to Syria’s territorial integrity. It seems that Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and several allied groups voting to create an autonomous federation in the northern part of Syria was a wake-up call. Five years ago, defending Syria’s territorial integrity was not an issue. There was no refugee issue. No matter how late it may be, regional countries have to get their act together if only not to lament later the interventions of dark forces, foreign powers in the affairs of the region. Otherwise, it will not only be the EU but much more than them Turkey and other neighbors of Syria to continue suffering the dramatic political, economic, social and cultural consequences of the refugee crisis. And, as it is becoming increasingly evident, Turkey will suffer more than any other country if Syria were to disintegrate.