EU and Turkey have to work together on refugees

EU and Turkey have to work together on refugees

There is much talk in Europe about the need to cooperate with Turkey over the refugee crisis. Germany is one of the countries spearheading this argument. The only problem is that not all EU members agreed on what this means. 

If we look at the Central and Eastern Europeans, for example, there are even heads of state there who believe there is no need for broad cooperation with Turkey. For them the solution is simple. Turkey is a Muslim country, the refugees are Muslims, ergo, they should stay there.

During a panel discussion in Davos moderated by the BBC’s Lyse Doucet, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski went so far as to suggest that the only Syrians that could be considered refugees were those in Turkey. Those who tried to get into Europe after that were only illegal economic migrants.

This kind of doubletalk will get Europe nowhere fast. Unfortunately, Europeans are in a sad state of denial today. They do not understand that in today’s world, there is no way they can solve the refugee crisis without genuinely cooperating among themselves and with Turkey, with all that this entails. 

In other words there is no free meal for them here. Neither is this an issue that will go away because of cultural hang-ups. Those in Central and Eastern Europe should know from their own histories of the past 70 years that when certain dynamics are set in motion in the world, there is no way of stopping them with easy solutions. 

So there are no palliative measures or magic wands that will help them other than charting a realistic plan of action that is based on genuine burden and responsibility sharing. 

Turkey, for its part, is not in a position to cope with the 2.5 million refugees it has taken in already, and the steady stream continues. Ankara should also refrain from trying to use this crisis to advance its dormant EU perspective or to grab certain privileges that have little to do with this crisis.

Trying to do that when Europe has serious internal problems to solve is like flogging a dead horse. Turkey should, therefore, act with the realization that it cannot solve this matter on its own without the help of Europe, doing what it has to in this respect.

The bottom line is that trying to shuffle responsibility in the refugee crisis onto others is not the way out for anyone. This is a collective problem and the manner in which it is handled will also have a bearing on the future of the EU. 

Europe is only strong on the world stage if it is united. Otherwise it will be a mere collection of states, competing with one another, which have no collective clout. That is also when countries like Germany, which are strong economically and politically, will definitely take precedence again as the main guiding force in Europe. 

Meanwhile, Central and Eastern European countries will suffer the consequences of a disunited EU most. They are already showing in some instances that EU standards are too much for them. But they do not appear to factor in what an EU that is weakened because of them will mean for their own long-term interests. 

It does not take too much imagination to understand what European and global superpowers these countries will be caught between if the EU is weakened due to their inability to fulfill their obligations as member states. This is why they tried desperately to join the EU in the first place.

So whether they like it or not they will have to wake up and do their share, which will also have to include a more realistic look at Turkey, and a better understanding of what their real position in the world is today.