Syrian dam held together by Turkey could collapse

Published 12.06.2019 20:14
Updated 13.06.2019 00:28

Half of Syria has been emptied since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011. According to official data, nearly four million Syrians live in Turkey, which is the first stop of immigrants coming from the country.

It is obvious that the real number is much higher. Every time I go out on the street, I run across immigrants, even in Istanbul, which is more than 1,000 kilometers away from the Syrian border. Syrians who have no difficulty entering Turkey due to Ankara's open-door policy are striving to hold onto life somehow. However, many of them want to reach Western countries via Turkey, which is a bridge between Europe and Asia.

Despite high-level EU border security practices, hundreds of them try to realize this dream by jeopardizing their lives and the lives of their families every day.

The hospitable attitude that Turkey has maintained so far as a country shouldering the burden of Europe and the whole world on its own does not seem to be sustainable.

This is because this burden, which even rich European countries cannot undertake, has come to weigh heavily on Turkey. Opposition parties in Turkey are pressuring the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about humanitarian spending on Syrian immigrants.

Moreover, not only nationalist parties, but also the main opposition "leftist" Republican People's Party (CHP) is surfing this populist wave. In the March 31 mayoral elections, some CHP candidates built their campaigns on the promise of "not letting Syrians into their city."

Unfortunately, such a discourse, which is disgraceful in the name of the left and universal values, has not remained unfulfilled. Now, decisions by two coastal CHP municipalities that ban Syrians from entering beaches are being discussed.

Although the ruling party and its supporters struggle against discriminatory rhetoric and policies, it is not easy to resist this populist wave. If the CHP candidate wins the mayoral election on June 23 in Istanbul where 15 million people live and people will head to polls to re-elect the local administration, the rise in uncertainty for the EU will not be a surprise.

In other words, Turkey, which serves as a dam for Syrian refugees at the starting point of the European region, can see the formation of a political climate that pushes for the opening of "border gates" any moment.

It is not hard to predict the consequences of Turkey starting to introduce the open-door policy, which it currently implements on the Syrian border, to points opening up to Europe. In addition to nearly five million Syrian immigrants, refugees coming from the East, especially Afghanistan, can further deteriorate Europe's already unbalanced state.

As can be seen in the European Parliament elections, the right-wing and populist wave is rising on the old continent. If the governments of EU countries follow this trend and escalate their anti-Turkey attitude to save the day, they will accelerate their end.

The only thing the EU can do to overcome this danger on the horizon is to boost its cooperation with Turkey. The tension in Syria and the Mediterranean, in which the EU is a party, also falls within this framework. If European politicians do not want to pay a price on a national scale, they can share responsibility through the EU's institutional mechanisms.

Otherwise, they will pay the price individually.

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