Syria, Turkey and the EU

Syria, Turkey and the EU

Syrians seeking a secure, better life are the unwanted refugees of Europe and the “guests” of Turkey. As nonsensical as it might sound, Syrians fleeing war and brutality in their homeland from their own government, the mild or radical Islamist opposition or their country’s Russian ally is a bitter reality. For the past five years they have been at the doors of Turkey every day by the thousands, or trying to find a way through Turkey to a better, more secure life in Europe. They are trying to flee onboard trucks or on flimsy boats wearing fake lifejackets mostly produced by illegal Syrian workers in a clandestine manufacturing building. What is the percentage of those who make it to Europe? How many of them give up their last attachment to life on board those trucks or surrender to the high waves of the Aegean Sea?

In any language, what Syrians have been living through for the past five years cannot be described as anything other than one single word: Tragedy. The little boy or girl on the corner of the street trying to earn a few Turkish Liras by “selling” tissue papers or some other items to cover up their begging; the family that occupies the empty Gaziantep weekend house of a rich local; the perplexed elderly person sitting without knowing what to do at the collection point on a Greek island; or the criminals accused in Germany of rape; they are all victims of a war they did not want to become involved in but had no other choice but to flee their homeland under miserable conditions.

Turkey and the rest of the world have a moral obligation to help them. Could anyone tell Turkey that because the European Union decided to give it some three billion euros in assistance programs for the “refugees,” it was Ankara’s moral and legal obligation to close down its borders and not allow refugees to cross into Europe? That is insane. Shall Turkey give three or four billion euros to any volunteering European country and send them some three million Syrians? Even more generously, increase the “award” to five billion euros; is there any country to take in three million Syrians? Thus, talking in such a manner might demonstrate nothing but the appalling inhumane quality and sheer hypocrisy of any top EU executive who might utter such an insane remark.

Turkey, of course, has immense problems. The governance of Turkey is as if (to avoid prison I must select the kindest possible words for it) we are all onboard a lousy bus on a rough road. Exercising the right to petition or being courageous enough to say something other than praising the almighty and absolute leader of the country might earn anyone several years in prison. Yet, despite all its problems, and perhaps to some degree in awareness of the great responsibility it has in the situation in Syria getting worse, this country has generously spent billions on Syrian “guests,” abetted and supported the “mild” Islamists trying to overthrow the tyranny back in Damascus and even just to prove the changed engagement rules and its determination not to let Syrian jets approach Turkish territory, shot down a Russian jet last November. The end result was closure of Syrian airspace to Turkish jets, but Turkey “proved” it was “a big country.”

“Pride and Prejudice” is not just a novel of manners written by Jane Austen (first published in 1813). Those in responsible governance positions should perhaps read such world classics and learn a bit about what great sufferings greed, prejudice and being blinded by pride might produce.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Ankara again. Thanks to the refugee obsession skyrocketing back home and across Europe, she apparently has rediscovered the importance of Turkey. What did she discuss during the three-and-a-half-hours of talk with the second in command, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and an imperial reception by the supreme leader President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? The Syria problem was of course important. Russian jets attacking Turkey’s beloved mild Islamists opposition positions near Aleppo and remarks of deep throats and analysts from Moscow that a ceasefire could only be applicable when Aleppo was “liberated” and the logistic supply line of the “rebels” from Turkey was cut were all indicative of what’s indeed the reason of the flare up of war around Aleppo. Thus, it was important as well that Merkel and her Turkish hosts were in full agreement that Russia should be stopped and both the EU and NATO must undertake initiatives to convince Moscow to stop its aerial bombardment of civilian areas.

What about Turkey? Is there any reason to wait until the situation really becomes incomprehensible and unmanageable with the country plunged into fire and Turks flooding European cities before its European allies feel the need to remind Ankara that the club of democracies it has been aspiring to join is one of norms and values, and if it insists on defying such values and norms, then forget opening new chapters as its entire EU voyage might be derailed?

Why did Merkel not open up the allegations of rampant rights violations in the southeast, suppression of media freedom, journalists in prison and witch-hunting campaigns against academics who dared to say something other than the official propaganda?

Forget everything; did she discuss with her Turkish hosts why Syrian refugees are just “guests” in Turkey?