Why was Turkey not invited?

Why was Turkey not invited?

The EU’s mini-summit on refugees, held on Oct. 25 in Brussels with the involvement of mostly Balkan and central European countries, has revealed again how disunited Europe is when it comes to important international crises. The BBC’s headline on the gathering tells it all: “Small steps, sharp retorts: Europe’s rifts laid bare in Brussels.” 

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic was more derisive than others, referring to the summit as “just a nice Sunday afternoon talk.” According to him the matter “has to be tackled in Turkey and Greece.” One of the few points of agreement in Brussels among the 11 regional leaders gathered there was that Turkey holds a key position in this crisis. 

If so then some obvious questions arise. Why, for example, was Turkey not invited to the mini-summit in Brussels if there was general acknowledgment that it holds the key? Not only is it a candidate state but it also has one foot in the Balkans. 

And what does the fact that Turkey was not invited tell us about the EU, not only in terms of its sincerity with regard to solving the refugee problem, but also with regard to its relations with Turkey?

Clearly not everyone in the EU is happy about the prominence Turkey is gaining in Europe as a result of this crisis. Many are also displeased by the recent visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Turkey, and the promises she made while there, even if these promises are unlikely to be fulfilled.

The worry could be that Ankara will gain an advantage in terms of its EU bid as a result of this crisis, as some member states to not want to grant it. It is Merkel who, after all, spearheaded the campaign against Turkey’s full membership, and now she is promising to help push this bid along under force of necessity.

It is not beyond the scope of imagination, therefore, that Turkey was not invited to this summit in order to prevent it from securing important quid pro quos in return for its cooperation in helping to alleviate the migrant crisis. The thinking still appears to be that Europe demands and Turkey does what is said. 

It doesn’t work that way, though, and never did. Europe has to also face up to the fact that “fortress Europe” is a fantasy in this day and age. We live in an interactive world, not just in terms of goods, but also in terms of people. 

Europe has failed to rise to the occasion on a host of key issues over the past two decades, from the Yugoslavia crisis to Iraq, and now to Syria. The movement of people will continue if collective international action is not established. 

Preventing this will mean more generosity, more sacrifice and more engagement to alleviate the plight of others on the part of Europe, whether the crisis is in the Middle East, the Caucuses, or Africa. In colonial times, engagement in these areas provided wealth grabbed from others. Today it represents security.

The EU is the richest gathering of states which has the financial wherewithal and the political-military clout to achieve this, provided there is a real sense of commitment. The prevailing European mentality, however, is clear to discern in the responses to the present crisis of some member states. 

How quickly the Hungarians, for example, seem to have forgotten that they were refugees not so long ago knocking desperately on the doors of others, even Turkey. Nobody expects any Balkan or central European country to commit demographic suicide, of course. 

But there must be a more human way for such countries to proceed under the umbrella of the richest union of states in the world, rather than putting up barbed wire and resorting to fascist narratives. It is this attitude which will ultimately ruin the EU, and not Turkey’s deeper institutional involvement with Europe. 

Some have to be constantly reminded that historically Turkey has always been part of the European equation, a fact that is becoming apparent once again, whether some like it or not...