Ankara should stop beating around the bush

Ankara should stop beating around the bush

Turkey has been saying for months that if the EU does not honor its commitment to lift the visa requirement for Turks, as agreed under the deal on illegal migration early last year, then it will default on its commitments under this deal.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and EU Affairs Minister Ömer Celik have repeated this a number of times since the April 16 referendum that increased President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s powers. 

Both are warning that if the visa requirement is not lifted soon, Ankara will cancel the migration agreement. But Çavuşoğlu and Çelik do not have much credibility in this regard. 

To start with, as pointed out, Ankara has been saying this for quite some time but it has not carried out what the Turkish side would call its “warning” and the European side its “threat.”

It seems to be a classic case of having called “wolf” too many times to no effect. 

Ankara’s “warnings” have not forced the EU to be any more lenient. It still wants Turkey to narrow the scope of its definition of “terrorism,” and bring this in line with European standards on human rights before it allows visa-free travel for Turks.

Ankara, however, is not prepared to do so while it maintains its war against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and those associated with Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher who is accused of masterminding last year’s failed coup attempt.

It seems the only liberalization Europe is prepared to move toward currently in regards to arrivals from Turkey is for asylum seekers, and even then it will be on the lookout for educated professionals that it can be sure to benefit from in one way or another.

In other words, its gain will be Turkey’s loss as usual. As matters stand, the brain drain from this country has been ongoing since the failed coup attempt, and is expected to speed up under the “Erdoğan administration,” as more western-oriented educated Turks seek ways to escape the increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere for their kind here.

Other than that, there is hardly a western diplomat who believes Turks will gain free-travel access to Europe this year - or even next year or after that - under such prevailing conditions. 

This is why Ankara should stop issuing hollow warnings and do what it is threatening to do. The longer it puts this off, the weaker it looks despite all its bombast. 

But will Ankara do what it says it will? Or rather, can it afford to carry out its threat? 

That seems extremely unlikely. Sober minds in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) also know that if it were to do so, this will lead to a new crisis with Europe that will ultimately backfire on Turkey economically and politically.

This is also the start of the tourism season, when Turkish operators depend on arrivals from Europe. Those will clearly decline in the face of fresh tensions.

There is also the issue of illegal migrants and refugees already in Turkey, with more likely to arrive. If the deal with the EU regarding these people collapses, no matter what the shortcomings of this deal may be, Turkey has no place to turn to, and will be ultimately stuck with millions of foreigners, while it gets even less aid than it is getting from Europe today. 

As ministers charged with running ties with Europe, Çavusoglu and Çelik should stop playing to the domestic gallery and seek real solutions to serious problems that exist with Europe, rather than beating around the bush with hollow warnings and threats.