The President of Turkey found a way to use the refugee crisis into his own advantage.
The violent police seizure of Turkey’s biggest opposition newspaper, Zaman, and its immediate cowing into a tame pro-government publication represents the most brazen authoritarian move to date by the ruling AK party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkish opposition politicians denounced the full-frontal assault on independent media as tantamount to a coup d’état by Erdogan.
But the Western response to the draconian display of state power was more muted than ever. There was hardly any Western media coverage of the Zaman seizure. Both Washington and the EU merely issued perfunctory statements of “concern,” and breathlessly urged Ankara to respect “free speech” and “core European values.”
In recent months, Erdogan has been locking up journalists and closing critical media outlets. Under his increasingly autocratic rule, the Ankara authorities have prosecuted thousands of citizens who have “insulted” the president through social media.
More gravely, Erdogan has ordered a bloody wave of repression against ethnic Kurds in the country’s southeast, with disturbing reports of mass killings by Turkish troops. Turkish military have also been shelling across the border at Kurdish positions in Syria for several weeks now.
It is not as if EU leaders are oblivious to Erdogan’s rogue conduct. An EU report issued in November highlighted the growing repression of human rights.
Significantly, at the last minute before the Brussels summit opened on Monday, Turkey’s premier Davutoglu pulled out “some new ideas.” One of those “new ideas” was that Ankara was no longer requesting $3.3 billion in EU aid, as it had done four months previously. Ankara was now demanding double the money.
The upshot of negotiations in Brussels this week is that Turkey is to receive a 100 percent increase in promised financial aid from the European Union – to $6.6 billion – supposedly for accommodating Syrian refugees on its territory.
What Ankara appears to be giving in exchange is its cooperation in the systematic return of all refugees presently in Greece – some 30,000 – back to Turkey. At some unspecified future date, the EU is committed to take back Syrian refugees in equal numbers in a seemingly orderly process of asylum application. However, it remains to be seen if such a complex arrangement of refugees being brought back to the EU can work in practice. For one thing, the EU will still have huge problems among its member states refusing to take up quotas of asylum seekers.
EU leaders were increasingly desperate to halt the flow of migrants and this is the outcome. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was under particular pressure to stem the human tide following her erstwhile “open door” policy.
Much closer to reality though is that NATO member Turkey is the party that has weaponized refugees. Erdogan’s state has played a prominent role in inciting the five-year war in Syria for regime change in Damascus. The war is in danger of dragging on even further given Turkey’s ongoing role in illegally supplying weapons and insurgents into Syria. That is the background to why nearly three million Syrian refugees have ended up in Turkey and for why Europe has incurred the destabilizing influx of migrants.
As Syrian President Bashar Assad said recently, Europe’s refugee crisis would be quickly solved if the covert war on his country was stopped. That is achievable if European powers clamped down on Turkey and Saudi Arabia sending weapons and mercenaries into Syria.
But instead, the EU overlords award the Erdogan regime with $6.6 billion while at the same time brutalizing human rights; and thereby ensuring that the whole problem is postponed for a much bigger eventuality.