Turkey is threatening to drown Europe in migrants unless the European Union agrees to visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, encouraged by a fresh referendum that increased his powers, is expected to abandon his intentions of joining the EU so he can continue the country’s Islamization.
EU officials fear that if they refuse to comply with Erdogan’s demands, the increasingly autocratic ruler will renege on his agreement to stop migrants in Turkey from entering Greece. If the threat is carried out, it would be disastrous for Europe.
“Turkey has the EU over a barrel over this issue of migration because the EU is a magnet for illegal migration from Africa and the Middle East,” UKIP’s Home Affairs spokesman Jane Collins told the Daily Express.
“The referendum result makes Erdogan’s position even stronger and with Trump calling to congratulate him it’s clear the EU will have no bargaining power besides money, which it also does not have.”
Last Sunday Erdogan scraped together just enough votes to pass a referendum allowing him to stay in power for longer and to act without consulting parliament. The measure is a further assault on the country’s once famed democracy.
Erdogan has urged Brussels to allow Turks free travel if they expect him to honor his agreement to accept Europe’s “irregular” migrants and prohibit smugglers from ferrying people to Greece.
Ömer Çelik, the Turkish minister for EU affairs, told The Times: “If we get a negative response from the EU we have the right to re-evaluate and suspend all of these agreements.”
Turkey’s belligerence shows that it’s no longer concerning itself with adopting Western morals. The day after the referendum Erdogan reinstituted the death penalty, an absolute disqualifier for EU entry.
“We’ve always been very reluctant to ensure a visa-free regime to Turkey as, in our opinion, Ankara does not match the democratic criteria,” said Gianni Pittella, the Italian leader of the Socialist grouping in the European Parliament. “Now after the referendum, our concerns are even bigger.”
Greek officials are preparing for the worst. They’ve already planned how to deal with a sudden influx of migrants. During the initial crisis, Greece was battered by an onslaught of hundreds of thousands of people. If forced to deal with another migrant crisis their struggling economy would plunge further into debt and Brussels would be pressured to provide assistance.
“It is also not very important for us either. … They have made us wait at the gates of the EU for 54 years. So, we will sit and talk and hold a referendum on that, too,” Erdogan told a crowd of supporters when questioned on Turkey’s potential EU membership.
Europe is so anxious about what Erdogan might do that government officials remained unusually quiet after Sunday’s vote. Clearly, no one wants to irritate Erdogan.
On Monday the British Foreign Office expressed mild concern over the vote, but took care to highlight that: “Turkey is a close ally and friend of the UK and we have a range of shared interests.”
“The referendum is an important moment for Turkey, millions of Turkish people turned out to express their views, that clearly opens the way to significant changes in Turkey’s system of government…What’s important now is that Turkey enacts these constitutional changes in a way that sustains democracy, respects the rule of law, and protects fundamental freedoms in line with its international commitments,” the statement continued.
The proposal to allow Turks visa-free travel in the EU is still circulating in Brussels. Experts predict that officials will eventually comply. The migrant crisis reshaped the continent. Liberal fantasies about the wonder of refugees have been replaced with pragmatic views about the difficulties of assimilating large groups of adults into a new culture.
Relations between Turkey and the EU became increasingly fraught in the months leading to Sunday’s vote. Erdogan accused Germany and The Netherlands of acting like Nazis. Multiple countries expressed concern over authoritarian rule.
“It’s high time we disarmed verbally. The Nazi insults are unbearable,” German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth told Welt am Sonntag.
A few analysts hold out hope that Erdogan will be curtailed by the narrowness of his victory.
“This large an opposition is hard for Erdogan to ignore,” wrote analysts Aykan Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish parliament, and Merve Tahiroglu, both with the Washington think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“He may claim to have won a slight majority, but he lost in five of Turkey’s six largest cities, including its economic center Istanbul, where he has never lost an election since becoming mayor in 1994. He also lost in Turkey’s other economic powerhouses — including the capital Ankara and Izmir — suggesting the country’s poor economic performance could become his weak spot in the days and weeks to come.”