Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Threats Between EU and Turkey Ring Hollow

The decibel level of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s denunciations are invariably so high that it is impossible to know how seriously to take them. He has threatened to let loose a wave of three million Syrian and Iraqi refugees who would then try to make their way from Turkey to Europe at a time when anti-immigrant feeling is helping fuel the rise of the populist far right.

Erdogan’s threat came after the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution to freeze talks on Turkey joining the EU as a protest against Ankara’s mass arrest of dissenters in the wake of the failed military coup on 15 July. The purge is extending way beyond those connected to the coup and liberals and Kurds are being detained and the few remaining independent parts of the media are being closed down or brought under control.

The EU correctly talks about “a disproportionate response to the coup” while Erdogan complains that the initial EU condemnation was so tardy and conditional as to suggest that the EU states would have preferred him to be overthrown.

The Turkish leader now says that he may tear up the agreement signed in March to keep potential migrants inside Turkey in return for accelerated talks on Turkey’s EU membership, visa-free travel for Turks coming to Europe and financial aid. “We are the ones who feed 3 million to 3.5 million refugees in this country,” said Erdogan. “You have betrayed your promises. If you go any further those border gates will be opened.”

There is no doubt Erdogan could try to do this, though the threat would have been more potent when it was easier for migrants to move north through the Balkans to central Europe. Border restrictions and fences now make this much more difficult. But the threat of more migrants still has a significant political impact just ahead of the presidential election in Austria in which far-right candidate Norbert Hofer is leading the polls. The success in the US presidential election of Donald Trump’s brand of populist nationalism with a racist cutting edge underlines the extent to which the immigrant wave is resetting the political agenda.

That said, there is an element of shadow boxing in the latest EU-Turkey row. It probably was not a good idea to link the refugee crisis with progress on Turkey’s faltering decades-old bid to join the EU because it wrapped two insoluble problems into one. It raised hopes in Turkey that were never going to be fulfilled and inevitably brought disappointment. On the other hand, it is not in the interests of the EU or Turkey to escalate their dispute beyond a certain level, even though relations are becoming more antagonistic. Both need each other.

All sides are paying a price for letting the wars in Syria and Iraq go on for so long and doing so little to bring them to an end. The EU and Turkey both made critical mistakes, which could have been avoided, and neither have come up with realistic policies. Turkey was for long the sanctuary and transit point for the extreme Islamist armed opposition flooding into Syria. Erdogan and his government were convinced that President Bashar al-Assad’s government was always on the verge of being overthrown though the evidence was much against this.

After 2011 the leaders of the main EU states – notably Britain and France – have had a Syrian policy based on wishful thinking and a belief that their vital interests were not affected by the conflict. They wanted to keep in with their traditional arms-buying allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. It was only as Syrian immigrants poured into Europe in 2015 and Isis launched a series of devastating terrorist attacks in France and Belgium that the results of their folly became apparent. Real progress in ending the immigrant crisis means ending the war in Syria.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail