Who cares about the reality? 'Turks are coming' slogan is enough for the European public to fear the deal between Turkey and the EU
Alarge number of articles have been published in the EU last week, all condemning the EU-Turkey deal from various angles. To read these different analyses, the average reader would be tempted to see a new "Munich," in European Council President Donald Tusk a new Neville Chamberlain. I will not have the effrontery to make the same comparison for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
All analyses converge on the common point that Turkey has accepted to keep Syrian refugees within its borders in exchange of cold, hard money to be paid by the EU in coming weeks and months.
Nothing can be further from reality, as Turkish authorities have employed an open-border policy since the beginning of the war in Syria back in 2011. Since then, the upkeep of the refugees in the country has cost the Turkish treasury an average of $1 billion, with the sum increasing steadily with the number of refugees. Today there are nearly 3 million refugees in Turkey, mostly but not only from Syria. Refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq are also among those who have found shelter in Turkey. Approximately one-tenth of these refugees live in refugee camps. The refugee camps have been classified as the best in the wider region by a number of independent organizations, including the United Nations' relevant agencies. This should not hinder the fact that nine refugees out of 10 live among the population in the cities.
Almost 100,000 babies were born to Syrian refugees in Turkey. These children need to be cared for, vaccinated, educated and given a plausible chance to live in Turkey. Their parents are in the same situation. According a survey done by academics from Bilgi University, where I work, led by Professor Ayhan Kaya, with almost 800 Syrian refugees in Istanbul, through face-to-face interviews, only 1 percent was willing to immigrate to EU countries. These people are here to stay, with almost all of them refusing to go back to Syria. Most of them came from Aleppo, and the monthly budget for a six-member family is around 430 euros, which is at the poverty threshold in Istanbul.
The EU wanted to offer a deal to Ankara. Turkey did not initiate any demand. The EU wanted to enhance its cooperation with Turkey. Turkey did not refuse the opening. In exchange for 3 billion euros that will be spent for the well-being and education of Syrian refugees in close collaboration with relevant EU institutions, Ankara has accepted to take back illegal migrants from the EU in exchange for the same number of refugees legally accepted by the EU currently in Turkey. This deal, despite looking unacceptable to the beautiful souls all around the EU, has stopped the influx of migrants.
The only thing Ankara really asked for was to finally see the implementation of visa-free travel for Turkish nationals. This has nothing to do with illegal migration. This was a deal already made with Turkey years ago. This was also a step taken by the EU to welcome candidate countries to start their accession negotiations.
Let us also recall the great number of rulings from the European Court of Justice that have found the visa requirements for Turkish nationals contrary to our associative agreements.
Now the reigning atmosphere is that if visa-free travel is granted, hordes of Turkish migrants will overwhelm EU countries. Nothing could be further from reality, but who cares about reality? The Turks are coming. The image has always been successful to scare the public. There are more than 3 million Turks or individuals of Turkish origin already legally living in Europe, mostly in Germany. The total number of Turkish citizens holding an active passport is less than 1.5 million. Visa-free travel rights are nothing and do not give any right to anybody to stay more than three months in the EU. I have been writing about this issue so many times that I do not want to repeat the same arguments.
But I have a proposal to make: Fulfilling the 72 conditions for visa-free travel seems to be of the utmost importance for the EU to help them resist against invading Turkish hordes. If these conditions are not really met, other conditions should also be revised and Turkey might be asked to leave the ailing negotiations table. Greece, on the other hand, can be asked to graciously leave the eurozone for having falsified its national accounts year after year. Bulgaria and Romania should probably be asked to leave the EU altogether in view of their incredibly poor record on corruption and transparency. I do not even want to open the cases of Hungary and Poland. That would require at least a full-page piece.
Now, are the requirements and principles of the EU valid for Turkey only? What is the relation between illegal migration and passport-holding Turkish citizens? Do illegal migrants or refugees apply for visas? Do they need any valid travel document to cross borders? By refusing to respond to these questions and by eventually refusing visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, EU officials are preparing a full-scale political crisis, because this time Ankara will very likely refuse to be taken for the fall guy.