EU-Turkey Summit: Davutoglu takes it all
by Dimitris Rapidis and Deniz Eksioglu (November 30, 2015)
The first time the EU was faced with a gigantic crisis it blew it off. The lack of cooperation and understanding among the member-states with regards to the refugee crisis forced Merkel and Junker one month ago to resort to Turkey for assistance. After a fresh win with an outright majority in national elections, AKP's leader and PM Davutoglu, as well as President Erdogan were willing to assist. But the price for that would be big.
Since September Germany was trying to find a solution with the refugee flows but it received more negative than positive answers. Big states like France or the Great Britain did not follow Merkel's early-staged hospitality, whereas a growing number of Central and North European member-states were starting shutting down their doors to new refugees and building up fences. Especially after the deadly attacks in Paris, there is a broad sense of distrust over the EU with regards to the refugees, reflected in the rhetoric of many European governments. The fear of terrorist attacks, i.e. largely cultivated during the last 15 days with the ultra-securitization of Paris and Brussels, seems to have expanded in daily life. It is likely that such feelings will grow in the coming days and months penetrating into other spheres of the public life, and especially in the life of the ordinary Muslim populations.
Under such circumstances, Turkish PM Davutoglu was invited in Brussels to discuss on the refugee issue. He knew in advance that hot issues of domestic politics will not be discussed (e.g. human rights, freedom of speech, Kurds) and therefore ever since the beginning of the summit he was feeling confident for a positive outcome for his country. Fact it that at the current stage EU desperately needs Turkey. But the negotiations were one-sided, ended up with Turkey ready to receive 3 billion euros to support refugees' accommodation, a visa liberalization regime, the opening of remaining chapters by the beginning of 2016. In exchange, Davutoglu just pledged to strengthen control over traffickers and lower refugee inflows crossing the Aegean Sea.
Timing for Turkey is also ideal in domestic politics. With AKP having won with a landslide less than a month ago, with PM Davutoglu building its own political myth, the United States in quest for a strong ally against the Russian intervention in Syria, with the EU seeking Ankara as a last resort on the refugee crisis front, Erdogan is nourishing its own vision: to transform the regime into presidential and bring about the constitutional reform. It is likely that he is one step closer to that after the EU-Turkey Summit, as many from front opposition, pro-European CHP might be now satisfied with the European shift of the government. If this is the case and CHP (or part of it) vote in favor of regime change, then Erdogan would have conceded another big, strategic and political win.
Dimitris Rapidis is Director at Bridging Europe. Deniz Eksioglu is Junior Policy Analyst at Bridging Europe
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