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Opinion

Opinion: The deal with Turkey has its price

The EU has sealed its deal with Turkey over refugees in order to cut the flow of migrants off at its head. Barbara Wesel says the EU will have to live with the concessions it made to Ankara.

Of course, it's blackmail: The government in Ankara openly threatened that if the EU did not allow Turkish citizens to travel visa-free to the EU, they would no longer take any refugees back from Greece.

But for blackmail to work, there are always two parties involved: those who blackmail and those who have put themselves into the position to be blackmailed. Erdogan's government must be given something for the concessions made to Europe – even if it is difficult for many Europeans now to pay the price.

Are we only just now discovering Erdogan's anti-democratic politics?

Europeans shouldn't pretend as though they are just now suddenly realizing through the visa liberalization that Turkey under Erdogan's leadership has been walking further away from the path of democracy. If they had been reading their own annual reports regarding advancements, they would have long seen these problems detailed. But the autocrat on the Bosphorus was socially acceptable as long as he was the person to make a deal regarding refugees.

In some EU countries, including Germany, the pressure domestically was so enormous that the governments were ready to overlook the spots on his democratic waistcoat, so to speak.

Porträt - Barbara Wesel

DW's Barbara Wesel

Looking at it from the other perspective: Turkey has taken in around two million Syrian refugees. Even as some of them live there in miserable conditions, why would Turkey agree to take in even more refugees from Syria when they don't get anything in return?

The three billion euros that the Europeans agreed to doesn't actually flow directly into the government coffers but instead goes into projects to better take care of the refugees in the country. Where else would the motivation for the Turkish government come from if not a political triumph, one that finally garners from the EU the right to visa-free travel that has been sought for decades?

Turkey didn't have to pistol-whip the Europeans to get its way in the deal to return refugees. Just the opposite: it was a desperate attempt made by Angela Merkel to prevent the implosion of Europe as a result of the refugee crisis. She endured embarrassing appearances with President Erdogan, let herself be rebuffed and, of course, knew that there would be a price to pay for this business. Her friends in the party shouldn't play as if they are political virgins and declare that there shouldn't be a "refugee rebate" for Turkey. Of course there's one! What else could there be?

The EU-Turkey refugee deal was a mistake

In Brussels it is now being requested that they come to grips with Turkey and admit themselves that they need to positively influence the politics there. It's nice, if in this way the principal of hope can be held high. But one can also be realistic and say that after years of no one in the EU paying attention to them, Turkey has drifted into undemocratic territory. And that one merely has had to look on helplessly.

Not to be misunderstood: Europe has to criticize the attacks on human rights, the persecution of the Kurds, the court proceedings against journalists from morning to night. And they should apply political and economic pressure in order to dampen Erdogan's dictatorial tendencies.

But the EU never should have agreed to the refugee deal with Turkey under these conditions. It's a dirty deal. And it is a sign of Europe's impoverishment that they have not taken in the number of Syrian refugees as Turkey has done. But to pretend afterwards as if one has suddenly discovered questions about Ankara's democratic credentials is simply hypocritical.

Whoever places the order has to pay the bill - even in politics.

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