Well, that escalated quickly. After Turkey’s Prime Minister and the architect of its deal with the EU, Ahmet Davutoglu, resigned on Thursday at President Erdogan’s behest, many foresaw trouble ahead between Ankara and Brussels—but few thought it would come so swiftly. Open Europe reports:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that he wanted visa-free travel for his citizens into the EU’s Schengen area (which excludes the UK), by October at the latest. “I hope they will keep the promise that they made and close this issue,” he said on state TV. His comments come as it emerged that the European Parliament will not discuss the topic until Ankara meets all 72 required benchmarks to finalise the deal – despite the European Commission’s recommendation otherwise. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, told Deutschlandfunk this morning that, “it is absolutely out of the question,” until “the legal requirements for consultation are fulfilled.” Turkey currently falls short on five of the criterion for visa-free travel, crucially including changes to anti-terror law, which Erdogan ruled out last week.
Indeed he did, telling Europe bluntly that, “we’re going our way, you can go yours.” Then he doubled down, accusing Europe of harboring “political extensions of terrorist groups” (by which he appears to mean Kurdish sympathizers), and that it was a “black comedy” for them to criticize him under the circumstances.
And now, Mr. Erdogan has decided to apply the Cuba Gooding Jr. school of negotiations—”show me the money”—to the EU-Turkey deal. He’s demanding that Brussels turn over the €3bn that the European Union pledged to help refugees in Turkey directly to the Turkish government, rather than disbursing it through international aid organizations, as had previously been agreed. It should be noted that Mr. Erdogan and his immediate family members have credibly been accused of corruption, though the accusers have a nasty habit of winding up in jail shortly thereafter.
WRM wrote at the time of the first of what would be several iterations of the EU-Turkey deal in November that:
[T]he contrast between the arrogance the EU displays when it feels strong—labeling settlement-made Israeli goods, barring desperately poor farmers in Africa from using GMO crops to enhance their productivity and profits, imposing human rights sanctions on countries too small or too far away to retaliate—and the sweeping concessions it makes when it’s reeling, is highly instructive. The deal makes a mockery of European values, it will divide Europe further, and it rewards Erdogan’s bad behavior. Because Europe has no real policy on Syrian refugees and no means of developing one in anything like a timely fashion, it was reduced to paying virtually any price Turkey chose to name.
And since then, Erodgan has repeatedly driven the point home, seemingly reveling in his ability to make the self-righteous squirm as well as to make them do what he wished. But like everyone, the eurocrats do at least want a fig leaf. Can he strip it away so swiftly and not pay a price? That’s the €3 billion question.