A few thoughts on the British referendum

Elli Siapkidou

On 23 June, the majority of the British population, 51.8% voted against Britain remaining in the European Union (EU), after being a member for 42 years. Despite voices from the Left arguing that Brexit is proof that people are reacting to capitalist Europe which imposes austerity, this is not case.  The British referendum result is more a reflection of Britain's failure to accept its post- imperial identity and less of the European project’s shortcomings.

Britain was never a Euro-enthusiast. And this holds true for both its governments and its citizens. Britain chose not to take part in the discussions between the six countries (France, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands and West Germany) to form the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) back in 1951, as it was suspicious of any federalist organisation that could erode its sovereignty. It decided to join the European Economic Community (EEC) two decades later in 1974, only after it had realised the limits of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), a much looser form of cooperation which it had championed and helped create.

The British people confirmed their government’s choice to join the EEC, through a referendum that was held in 1975 and in which 67% of the electorate voted in favour. However, the British public was never a pro European one. Even in the beginning of the 1990s when 75% of the Europe’s citizens supported the process of European integration, this percentage hovered around 55% for the Brits, reaching 25% towards the end of the 1990s when support was generally waning.

From a European respective, the other EU countries came to accept that Britain was the club’s “awkward partner”, with its rows under Thatcher’s premiership about Britain’s contribution to the European budget and the various opt- outs from European policies, the euro included. 

Britain’s relation with Europe was a lukewarm relationship, and would remain so, so long as it was undisturbed. Cameron' s decision to hold a referendum changed this. He chose to take a gamble for his own personal re-election trying to appease a part of its Conservative party, which has always been against Europe. But in doing so, he opened the door for British nationalism to be fully expressed, not to say unleashed.

All countries and societies are nationalistic to one extent or the other. What is distinct about Britain's nationalism is that it translates into a deep aversion towards European institutions, federalism or any structure that challenges the core idea of the nation state. This is probably related to the fact that the events of World War II have a distinct position in the nation's collective memory. While for the rest of Europe, the war is an event to forget about, with its fascism, bloodshed and physical and economic destruction, in Britain, it is still glorified as an occasion where the country was victorious. It is not an accident that every year the BBC proms close with the hymn “Rule, Britannia!”, although the British empire has ended for more than fifty years now.  

The British referendum allowed all these nationalistic feelings to emerge. This is not to say that there haven't been increasing parts of the population who have seen their standards of living decline and are trapped in vicious cycles of poverty, precarious employment or unemployment.   But these are the result of the austerity policies of consecutive conservative governments rather than policies stemming from Brussels. If anything, it was Britain, which has exported neoliberal ideas and trade liberalisation as a way to economic growth to the rest of Europe rather than the other way round. By any account, Britain is a more capitalist society, more right wing and less socialist than most of continental Europe.

The Remain campaign did not manage to convince people of the benefits of European integration. There are many reasons for this. First, the inability for campaign in favour of Europe to mobilise people has been a characteristic of all the European referendums so far. The Nons, the Neins and the Nos are always more vocal than the Yeses and the Ouis and it is always easier to react to something rather than argue in favour of the status quo.

Second, the economic benefits of European integration (which Labour could have used as a pro-European centre party) are diffuse and long-term and very difficult to pin down to be used in an electoral campaign.

Third, one of the most important elements of the idea of united Europe, that of free movement of people, the right to study, work and live everywhere within the 28 EU countries was high-jacked by the Leave campaign and was framed as a negative. It was translated as concerns about immigration and foreign residents (raised by even Labour in the 2015 parliamentary elections). Despite the rhetoric which focused on the “Polish plumber”, concerns about increasing numbers of foreigners were more related to Britain’s immigration policies over the last fifty years from countries which were previously part of the British Empire and less about citizens from Central and Eastern Europe.

European integration and capitalism creates losers and winners. This is a point which supporters of Brexit from left-wing parties tried to highlight. However, their voices were lost amidst the nationalistic yelps. A Brexit campaign won on an argument of the European project not being socialist enough would have changed the terms of discussion and the European agenda. However unfortunately, the debate was not fought on the Left-Right axis, but on a nation-state vs Europe one.

Where does that leave us now? At the moment there's an impasse. Cameron resigned to gain some time before invoking article 50 and to pass the hot potato to Boris, and Boris has decided to pass that over to Gove. There is a deadline to how much the British governing elites can fiddle around. As Juncker and other European officials have made clear, Europe will not wait forever. Europe will not allow Britain to threaten the European project altogether, which means that it was has no motive to make this process of disengagement any easier for Britain. If anything, it will try to make an example of Britain to discourage any other countries of thinking about starting pulling threads for the European project (the euro-Greece and migration crises are doing enough of that already).

Similarly, it is not easy for British elites to “take back” the result, as Greek Prime Minister Tsipras did in the aftermath of the referendum on Greece’s loan agreement. Unlike the Greek referendum, which took place within two weeks of its announcement, the British referendum had a long electoral campaign. British politicians will have to think very hard to be able to turn this round.

There will follow a period of political and economic uncertainty with unknown end date. But until then, Britain has become a less welcome place for many foreign residents. Naturally, the Remain media are keen to bring out to all the racist attacks which happened right after the referendum result and raise the issue, but the fact remains that there has been a 50% increase in racist attacks following the referendum and people feel it’s ok to shout insults to foreign-looking people in the street.

The Left needs to regain the debate on Europe. It has been in the defensive too much and unfortunately this referendum result cannot be used to build its case for a better, more socialist and less unequal Europe. There is an urgent need to try to understand what it is that a European Left wants. Is it a stronger European welfare state? Is it a completely different economic model? Is it an increase in Cohesion and Development funds? And then, we need to make this inviting to people. So far, we are losing. We are losing the battles and we are losing the war (see also the disappointing results from Spain’s elections). And meanwhile, with all these nationalistic trends appearing across Europe, it is becoming an ugly place to be.

Dr. Elli Siapkidou is a political economist working as a political and economic analyst in London. 

  • Published in EUROPE

Brexit: Scenes from a future to come

Georgios Giannakopoulos
In the aftermath of the British referendum, we asked friends of AnalyzeGreece with links to the UK what they thought of the result. We will be publishing short interviews with them over the coming days. George Giannakopoulos, an intellectual historian at Queen Mary, University of London, who has been living in the UK since 2010, gives us his thoughts on Brexit and its implications for migrants in the UK, as well as for UK politics and the rise of the far right across Europe.
What was your initial reaction to the referendum result? How do you assess its potential impact on migrants in the UK?

The news reached me in a hotel room in Denmark. I spent the night in front of a TV screen in contact with friends from the UK. The whole situation brought back memories of last year's long and bruising Grexit nights. Another summer; another referendum; another set of anxieties. Anxieties about Europe and about the country I've chosen to reside in for the past six years. One could hardly miss the anti- EU mood in the country in the run up to decision day. Brexiters were very effective in framing public discussion around immigration, power and control. It is high time, they argued, to control “our” porous borders with the EU; to empower “our” disaffected English citizens from a dysfunctional unrepresentative Eurocracy; to regain Britain's global so-called “prestige”. Jo Cox’s assassination interrupted the debate. To some of us it seemed that the reaction to the politics of hate might strike a chord with voters and energize the Remain campaign which by then was predominantly led by conservative arguments about the economy and sentimental appeals to abstract European ideals. Then came the moment of truth. The politics of fear prevailed. A misguided longing for national 'control' swept through England leaving Scotland, parts of Wales, Northern Ireland and London adrift in a sea of reaction.

Predictably, everyone in the UK is talking. Social media are full of commentaries and op-eds. Unfortunately, a good number of commentators in the Greek press offer misguided readings of the situation, be it from the left or the right. The tendency to read the British reaction against the EU from the lens of the Greek-EU debacle is distorting to say the least. If I were to point out a couple of interesting pieces offering a less distorting analysis, I’d have to mention Will Davies’s Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit and  Peter Mandler's take on the London/rest of the U.K. divide.
My generation has benefited immensely from the open borders policy of the EU. Even those who frequently trumpet their 'anti-capitalist' credentials by pointing to the so-called 'neo-liberal' foundations of the European project have profited from traveling, living and studying across a unified European space. Britain, and London, have been at the heart of this. The ensuing period of uncertainty accentuates fears. It is highly likely that new migration laws will affect directly the prospects of employment for European migrants in the country. Moreover, it is still unknown how the highly internationalized British university model will adjust to the new realities. This is just an example of the huge challenges lurking in a period of protracted instability and anxiety.
What are the implications for Europe and Britain?

Living through the rise and demise of the Syriza moment in the UK, I had the chance to witness the hunger for political change and progressive reforms in Britain (and Europe). The unexpected election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party came to signify this. Corbyn’s reluctant endorsement of the Remain campaign seemed to be moving in the right direction despite the pressure coming from small factions of the far left which were behind the so-called Lexit campaign. At this moment, it is not clear whether Corbyn’s Labour will survive the unprecedented challenge mounted against his leadership. Corbyn's campaign faults and leadership style has been subjected to much hyperbole. On the whole, I find Martin O’Neill’s qualified account very well-balanced. The Labour Party is in dire need of an effective political and national strategy to address the political and national divisions in a disunited United Kingdom. Predictably, the Tory Brexiters are beginning to backtrack on many of their promises and the one force which seems to benefit at the moment is the right-wing populism represented by UKIP (and the Front National in France).

Finally, one has to mention the resurgence of Englishness as a response to the challenges of globalization and the purported “loss” of national identity. The media have been reporting racist attacks towards Eastern European migrants. A few weeks ago, in a coastal town not far from London, I witnessed an impromptu march by a small group of white middle aged English males holding anti-refugee and anti-immigrant placards and chanting racial slurs. The incident occurred in a very crowded street in broad daylight. What surprised me was the apathy of the crowd. The indifference shown reminded me of the attitude of many Greeks towards Golden Dawn. Scenes from a (dystopian) future to come.

Georgios [Yorgos] Giannakopoulos is an intellectual historian. He studied political science and history in Greece (BA, MA Panteion University, Athens) before embarking on a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. His research revolves around ideas of nationality and internationalism in early 20th century British thought.
  • Published in EUROPE

Brexit is no victory, as much as it may upset EU elites

Despina Biri

In the aftermath of the British referendum, we asked friends of AnalyzeGreece with links to the UK what they thought of the result. We will be publishing short interviews with them over the coming days. First up, it's Despina Biri, from AnalyzeGreece editorial board, who studied and worked in London between 2003-2015, and who continues to have very strong ties to the UK.
1. What is your assessment of the referendum result and its immediate aftermath?
Quite frankly I did not expect Leave to win. This may have to do with the fact that most of my social circle in the UK is in London. Before the referendum I thought that the fractured nature of the campaign would be to the detriment of the right and far right groups in favour of Leave. Of course, exactly the opposite turned out to be the case.
However, I think we can quite safely conclude that the Left played a marginal role in deciding the outcome of the vote, as, quite frankly, the balance of power in UK politics is not such, at least for the moment, that would permit the adoption of a “Lexit” agenda for leaving the European Union. While it could be argued that Leave managed to harness anti-austerity sentiment among the disenfranchised, it is by now quite clear that Brexit does not mean the end to austerity in the UK. Nigel Farage’s rebuttal of the claim that Brexit would mean an extra £350m could be spent on the NHS goes to show that the Leave campaign is nowhere near advocating even a moderately progressive agenda, as if that weren't obvious enough. The UK under Cameron was not compelled to implement austerity by the EU, as is the case in Greece and elsewhere, but instead had its own agenda for creating a “minimal state” as envisioned by Thatcher and Reagan. Austerity in the UK is therefore less related to Merkel’s flavor of neoliberalism than to its London counterpart. However, Remain’s reliance on “expert opinion” during the campaign was problematic, and allowed Leave to prevail largely on the strength of right wing populism and on a reaction against the realities of inequality, hijacked by anti-immigrant discourse.
One important aspect of the referendum is how it is linked to the “refugee crisis”. While much of the debate in the UK centered on migration between EU states, I think Brexit may have implications for refugees currently trapped in Greece and elsewhere as well. The shameful EU-Turkey deal, and EU member states’, including the UK’s,  refusal to take in larger numbers of refugees, contributed to the xenophobic climate leading to the referendum. This effect was of course augmented by Remain’s reluctance to put forward a strong pro-immigration, pro-refugee agenda, brought on by fragmentation in the Remain camp, similarly to Leave.Therefore, the Leave vote can be interpreted as not only an anti-migration vote, but as an anti-refugee vote as well. This is regrettable, not least because the UK has been one of the instigators of the “war on terror”, and  is expected to do even less to tackle climate change, both of which will cause even more people to flee their homes in future.
I can only speculate what the Leave result means for UK politics, looking beyond obvious things we already know much about, such as who the next prime minister will be, and the possible eventual secession of Scotland. I do think that David Cameron’s resignation was the right thing to do, but I will be sad to see Boris Johnson, whose terrible politics I am all too familiar with as a former Londoner, as his successor. It is perhaps more interesting to see what happens to Labour, the leadership of which adopted a more cautious stance visavis the referendum, perhaps contributing to the weaker than expected Remain vote. What's certain is that things cannot and will not continue as before.
2. How, if at all, do you think Brexit will affect you personally?

While I have not managed to return to the UK since I left last year, my family, friendly, professional, and academic ties to the country remain strong. At this point I am therefore worried about what will happen to those close to me who live in the UK. I'm also worried about my own future, seeing as finding a job in Greece is difficult (even, or especially, for a highly qualified person such as myself), and I have considered moving back to the UK, though this will likely be more difficult after Brexit. We are already seeing reports of racist comments and bullying taking place all over the UK, and it may be some time before they subside, if indeed they do.
Of course, I cannot help but think about British friends and former colleagues, who I am happy to say voted overwhelmingly in favor of Remain, as did London, where I spent nearly all of my adult life until last year. At this point, I am cautiously concerned about what a Leave vote entails for EU citizens living in the UK, and for UK citizens living in the EU.
3. What do you think are the implications of Brexit for the European project and for the European Left?
I have been feeling pessimistic about the future of the EU for a very long time now. Quite simply, I believe that the European institutional framework is such that states are unable to function as democracies. The issue of EU expertise, mentioned in my answer to the first question, is a parallel but distinct issue to that of experts in UK public policy. I am therefore convinced that the disintegration of the EU into other formations –a “small Eurozone”, for example, or a “Visegrad group”, or something else entirely– is already underway (not necessarily triggered by Brexit, but by other events such as those following the Greek referendum in July 2015, compounded by the “refugee crisis”).
As things currently stand, I think that the Left in Europe is trapped into a cycle of trying to come up with alternatives, but has not come up with concrete proposals that would allow it to put those alternatives into practice as government. In Greece,  Syriza’s about-face bears a lot of the blame for this state of affairs, as the Left is too fragmented and sore from the defeat to recover quickly. I think the case of Greece serves as a cautionary tale for other EU members as well, in that it goes to show that changing European institutions “from within”, as Syriza tried to do, is an impossible task.
With reference to Brexit, I think the Left played a marginal role in the UK referendum. I therefore think that, barring significant developments in the Labour Party, the state of affairs in the European Left as a whole will not be affected much. However, I must say that I am sad to see many from the Left interpreting the referendum result as being “a blow to the establishment” when it is quite clear that it is elites who led both the Leave and Remain campaigns, and it is the worst off in the UK who will be hardest hit regardless of outcome, seeing as austerity and anti-immigrant policies will continue to be in place, perhaps with even greater force than before (the expected amendment of the Human Rights Act is a notable example, but not the only one). Therefore, I cannot see any reason to be jubilant about the Leave win, seeing as it goes completely against the Left’s permanent demand for open borders and freedom of movement, extending from the symbolic to the far reaching implications for many people who call the UK home, and who on the whole enjoyed living in a relatively tolerant (especially compared to those in other European countries) and forward thinking society, which is among the first in Europe to recognise same sex marriage, and the rights of trans people, to name but two areas in which the UK has been pioneering as regards social rights. Put simply, I can foresee a regression of these freedoms following the Leave win, because, let us not forget, racism often goes hand in hand with other forms of discrimination. Frankly, this cannot be called a victory, as much of an upset it may be for EU elites.
PS. Can you really cough it up loud and strong?
The immigrants, they wanna sing all night long
It could be anywhere
Most likely could be any frontier any hemisphere
In no-man’s-land
There ain't no asylum here
King Solomon he never lived ‘round here
(The Clash, “ Straight to Hell”, from the album Combat Rock)

Despina Biri is a researcher and writer on health care issues. She blogs at despinabiri.wordpress.com and bakterienfureureseele.wordpress.com
  • Published in EUROPE

Refugees without asylum, states without reason, societies without illusions

 Some thoughts on the deal of shame between EU-Turkey

Dimosthenis Papadatos-Anagnostopoulos
It only took four months for Wolfgang Schäuble's “sincere” statement regarding the refugees –namely that “They are not desired in Europe”– to become a guideline for the whole of the European Union, at the helm of which, and let us bear this in mind, are neither Marine Le Pen nor Nigel Farage, as yet. It took just four months to dismiss the supposed “war against the peoples' smugglers” doctrine and explicitly acknowledge through the EU-Turkey Agreement, that the aim of the EU is to “put an end to the refugee flows.” And just like that, along with the pretexts, the commitment of the member states to the Geneva Convention and to the New York Protocol,  came to an end: a commitment to a framework of international protection which obliged the Western World to remember what happened in the past to those populations that were regarded as redundant, so that history does not repeat itself.

By no means is the existing framework of international protection an anthem an ideal solution  to the open borders. On the contrary, it excludes the “irregular” immigrants, and by this exclusion, it forces them to confront the consequences of decoupling immigration policy from labour policy, from as far back as the beginning of 2000, leaving  immigrants exposed to the “parallel legality” of mass arrests, refoulements and refugee camps. However, even if it excluded, even if it restricted someone with familiar obstacles when applying for and receiving asylum, this framework covered at least the refugees. Today this protection, and all the historical burden of the World War II behind it, have been canceled. This cancellation was celebrated by the Greek government as a “step forward” and a “diplomatic success”; the same cancellation that the Head of the British department of Amnesty International has hailed as a “dark day for the Geneva Convention, Europe and the mankind,” while UNICEF added that from now on minor refugees and immigrants will be returned to Turkey, where they will face an uncertain future.
No reason: the Pre-announced End to the International Protection

The cancellation of the Geneva Convention is a historical change, a change to a continuity. What I mean to say is that it is not the current “objective” of the refugee “crisis” that annuls the protection of refugees in practice, but the effort of the European states to shake off its “burden” over the years. This effort goes back more than a decade, when the present flows, as well as the economic crisis with which they intersect, could not be possibly have been predicted. 

In March 2003, Tony Blair presented the European partners with a plan for  “improving the management of the refugee flows,” based on two axes: improvement of the protection that refugees receive in countries neighbouring to their country of origin (in any case away from prospering Europe...) and setting up asylum request centres outside the European Union. The project would be financed by the European Commission from July 2003 and its pilot implementation was planned to take place secretly in Croatia, which back then was not a member of the “European family.”

On the same wavelength, out of the 4 billion euros that the EU allocated during the period 2007-2013 to the immigration and refugee policy, about half of it (1,82 billion) was directed to border controls, whereas just 17% went to the support of the asylum procedures. In September 2014, at a time when the bloodshed in Syria had already uprooted millions of people, the British NGO Oxfam maintained that “the rich countries have committed themselves to offer safe haven to 37.432 people, which is 1% out of the 3 million refugees in the neighbouring countries”. In October 2014, when Italy terminated the Mare Nostrum operation, thanks to which more than 150.000 people had been rescued at sea within a year, the Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano stated that the aim of the government was to “entrust the examination of the asylum seekers to outposts of the EU in Africa, where they would assess who is entitled asylum status and who is not.” The Spanish Prime Minister shared the same objective, that is to “externalise” the responsibility for the refugees, seeking ways of rejecting the asylum requests, if possible, before they enter the country by crossing the Moroccan borders.

Last summer indications showed that something was about to change, with a provision that 160.000 refugees from Greece and Italy would be relocated to other EU countries. Out of 160.000 refugees, however, only 937 people were included in this programme.
The End of the Illusion: the Greek Government played a Key Role to putting an End to the Geneva Convention

Let us go back to the EU-Turkey Agreement. A key to the suspension of the right to receive asylum, Liberation points out, is the recognition of Turkey as a safe third country. This is the legal framework, the European Commission has come up with since Wednesday: if someone applies for asylum in Greece, their file will be examined at a certain hot-spot and if it turns out that they came in Greece through Turkey, a safe third country, their request will be rejected. According to euro2day.gr, this was a request on the part of the Greek Prime Minister: “we call EASO and the European Commission,” it is stated in the relevant document, “to contribute by submitting reports that confirm that Turkey, as a first country of asylum and as a third country, is safe,” as if the government is clueless of the issues of security in our neighbouring country. As if anyone would be persuaded by the very same chorus we listen to repeatedly after every failure, as we have done already in this case: “if only you knew how much worse things would have been otherwise...”
The Refugee Crisis is Neither Exceptional nor Temporary
All those who scarcely followed the developments of the refugee issue should know that the refugee “crisis,” which was supposed to be solved by the Agreement, is nothing more than the predictable impasse of a European policy focused on managing/ preventing the “unwanted” strangers – an impasse against the equally foreseeable consequences of the lingering bloodshed in the Middle East.

As far as Greece is concerned, the duration and the dimension of the “crisis” could have been predicted from at least mid-2014: the humanitarian crisis in the islands of the North Eastern Aegean Sea and the urgent needs for accommodation and medical treatment, which were brought to light by the hunger strike of the Syrian people in December 2014, had signified the issue. Nevertheless, the EU as well as the Greek governments dealt with it as if it was a temporary phenomenon.

In view of the worsening crisis, which is any case difficult to handle by means of a ruined state apparatus, the present government took some initiative contrary to the misanthropic policy of New Democracy such as prohibiting the refoulements and by abolishing the detention centres. In its second term of office, however, at best it took responsibilities by receiving refugees aiming (in vain) at a certain debt relief, exploiting instrumentally and shortsightedly the humanitarian offer of millions of people all over the country. In the worst case, by denouncing the people who showed their solidarity as “ignorant,” “idealists” or even instigators of illegal actions, the Greek government adjusted to other versions of the European anti-refugee policy: it accepted the militarisation (fences, Frontex, NATO), vehemently argued for the position that “Turkey should receive all the refugees,” and finally opened up the refugee camps, foreshadowing mass refoulements of the “irregular” immigrants. To cut a long story short, not only did it not open the borders, as it was provocatively accused by the right-wing parties, but has already counted more than 300 drowned refugees in the Greek seas.

At the same time, it took no action in order to activate the European Directive 2001/55/EC, for which Syiriza pressed so hard when it was member of the opposition. The Greek Government refused to involve the army to aid with accommodation and feeding efforts, before it finally delegated the whole management of the refugee issue to it. It never occurred to the Greek government to plan ahead for refugee settlements, although the sealing of the Western Balkans’ Route was foreshadowed in several formal documents as far back as October 2015, alluding to the confinement of tens of thousands refugees in the country. Having started from the right position, that the refugee issue is not a national one, but rather a European issue, the government did not think that it should come up with a national plan, apart from fulfilling last minute needs, which were to be covered by the NGOs, as Y. Mouzalas admitted in an interview he gave to SKAI TV. In an effort to balance its role as a guardian and a policeman, the Greek government embraced the assessment that short and long term national planning would weaken the negotiating position of the country against the EU, if it would not be regarded as a signal to the people's smugglers.  Just like that, the deliberate inability of the state apparatus was promoted whereas the negotiating “tool” of the country was exhausted at protecting the national sovereignty of the Aegean Sea, before the well-known eccentricities of the ministers fighting for Macedonia take place.
And now what? (Without illusions)

At the moment the number of refugees in Greece amounts to 46.000. While the Agreement with Turkey is waiting be approved by the Greek parliament, according to the Greek government, Idomeni and the islands are going to be evacuated promptly and the people will be directed to the reception centres. Up to this moment, there is no guarantee about the conditions as well as the stay of the refugees in the country.

While the Greek government is committed only by an agreement that abolishes the right to asylum in a safe country and New Democracy pushes for a fiercer implementation of it, it is urgent that this agreement is put to question. First of all, it should not be ratified by the Greek Parliament. Secondly, the spatial segregation of the refugees should be questioned by the very Greek society; the refugees should come to the cities and to the neighborhoods. The accommodation centres do not constitute a solution for a population, which due to the closed borders has no other possibility than to stay in the country. The fulfillment of the needs of the refugees by NGOs is equally precarious; this condition, which has been encouraged by the European Committee by financing humanitarian organisations instead of the government, consolidates that the state withdraws from critical functions that are addressed to the whole of the Greek society, as well as the refugees. The policy of the intentional inability, as a means of pressure towards the EU, jeopardises people's lives and should be abandoned. In view of a historical regression, the solidarity movement should not be taken for granted; for the time being, however, it is our only counterweight to horror.

Translated by Anastasia Lambropoulou

First published in Greek on k-lab, 21.3.2016.


Reviving or Overcoming Borders: A Choice for Europe

Interview of  Anna Triandafyllidou  to Antonis Galanopoulos
(re-published from  "Green European  Journal")

Over the past year, Europe, besides the economic crisis, has had to face another big challenge: the largest refugee flow since the Second World War. As a result, the concept of borders has been revived across Europe. Displacement on this scale, bringing with it serious socioeconomic consequences, cannot simply be stopped at the borders. To find solutions, the EU must act on several different levels: for better management of the reception, relocation and integration of refugees; greater cooperation with Turkey; and stepping up efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Recently there has been great debate about the Schengen Treaty all over Europe. What does it represent? What does it tell us about borders and about Europe? 
Schengen is very important from a symbolic perspective. The right to freely move and establish oneself in other European countries is the main positive point associated with the European Union that remains in the minds of European citizens. Of course, we should not confuse Schengen with the right to freely circulate within the EU and live or work in another Member State. But the mere fact of not having to go through passport controls is important, both practically and symbolically. In continental Europe, you can travel as if you moved inside the borders of a single country. Restarting border controls in some countries, in some cases, is not terrible, but starting generalised controls will be very bad. And I do not believe that this will solve anything.

Do you believe that we can have a truly ‘European’ system of borders or borders or are they inherently national features? How can we achieve a European border system if this Union is not really a Union at this stage?
We are clearly heading towards a European border system. As far as the international geopolitical crisis is concerned, it is clearly in the interest of all countries to have common European borders. We already have common borders in the EU: our external borders. But of course, these are guarded and managed by national forces. Again, they are important both politically and symbolically. But since these borders are not fully Europeanised, there is a political game there as to ‘whose border is it anyway’. There is currently a dangerous temptation for countries in the north and east who are furthest from the conflict regions to seek to isolate Greece geographically and use it as a buffer zone, since Turkey does not seem to fulfil this function.

During the current refugee crisis, many countries have decided to close their borders, reintroduce border controls and even construct fences. Can such measures be effective for the management of migration and refugee flows?
The fences and closing of borders are not effective practices to address such phenomena. Currently a very big reshuffle is taking place in the Middle East and North Africa and it does not depend on us, or Greece, Bulgaria, FYROM… not even Germany or the EU. It is not possible to stop such large socioeconomic changes at the borders. We try, of course, to influence and manage the flows but to say that we can stop them is simply demagogic. We cannot see ourselves and our borders isolated from the international environment. This will lead nowhere. We will spend all our money and all our energy trying to guard the borders, more people will get killed, the amounts that the smugglers are asking will increase. Several years later, we will realise that too many people have come to Europe in order to find protection, but without having the papers necessary, and that pockets of misery and terrible exploitation have been created.

Why are we seeing a return to borders nowadays?
For many politicians, it is easier to say that we will close our borders and we will protect ourselves. In addition, when you announce ‘the end of the world’, you hit the headlines of newspapers. If you say that this crisis is difficult, but we are trying and it takes efforts on behalf of everyone, you would be at page 10. We usually see that there may be a significant gap between the rhetoric that is for domestic consumption in each country, and the actual policy and practice.

If countries were exiting the EU, would that stop refugees from coming? No. That is not the case. In other words, if the EU were to isolate Greece geographically, seeking to contain the refugee flows going further north, this would not work as the asylum seekers and the smugglers would just find different routes. There is no easy solution. It is necessary to work on many parallel solutions; better management of reception, distribution and integration of refugees, cooperation with Turkey, an effort for peace in Middle East, which of course is not easy.

Right-wing populist politicians, like Viktor Orbán, insist on the idea that the closing of borders will preserve the national identity of a population. Why is this symbolic aspect of borders so important?
Borders are related to sovereignty, which is the essence of national self-determination. So it seems that if we manage to control the borders we can re-establish social order, public order, security… indeed, our high level of technological development and our affluence makes us think that we could isolate ourselves and thereby ensure our security, but this is a fallacy. It is precisely our technological progress and our affluence that make us so open and interdependent.
In my opinion, we are already moving towards a decline of the importance of borders because of regional groupings such as the EU. I think borders are very permeable today – by economy and trade, by cultural flows. They are open for those who are highly skilled or affluent. Borders are closed mostly for the poor and the less skilled, those with the ‘wrong’ passports. But overall we witness multi-polarity in international relations and growing interdependence. This is why borders are increasingly less important.
Another expression of how borders are permeable today is international terrorism. We can install as many controls as we want on our borders, but it is unlikely that this will be a good strategy to stop (prospective) terrorists.

Across Europe, approaches to integration vary as they are informed by different approaches of States towards their borders.  Could asylum and integration ever be managed at a European level?
The border issue has evolved separately from the issue of integration. The different inclusion and integration systems are mainly related to the definition of national identity and the historical experiences that every country has had in terms of both emigration and migration. We need a common asylum status that would be valid throughout the EU. But we do not need a European integration system. Integration is a local process and we have enough top-down coordination and policy exchange so far.

As Europeans, can we be satisfied with the EU’s management of the refugee crisis?
On the EU’s response, I see the glass as half-full. The European Commission’s officials (Jean-Claude Juncker, Federica Mogherini and Dimitris Avramopoulos) have shown great political will for the enforcement and promotion of European solutions. It is the EU member states that have not done their share, and have been disappointing. The EU has played its part. The member states are blocking the decisions and developments. But I repeat that this crisis is big and cannot be solved so easily.

Could you tell us more specifically what the Commission has done so far?  Why is the relation between the EU and its Member States so problematic in this area?
The Commission has put a lot of leadership in seeking the cooperation of source countries of migration and countries in the region1. It has put a lot of pressure on our fellow member states in the East to show solidarity and it has counteracted the easy demagogic pressures seeking to unload the burden and the blame to the peripheral countries. Naturally, the European Commission is not a national government in the way we understand it within a country, so it has limitations as to what it can and cannot do. The same is true for the European Parliament, which is consistently progressive and pro-European in its approach and tries to promote solidarity among Member States. It is perhaps the European Council (i.e. ultimately the Member States) that fail Europe and probably fail their citizens by repeating this claim that they could solve all problems effectively, if only they closed their borders.

There is a widespread belief that the key to the refugee crisis lies with Turkey. An initial agreement was reached recently but efforts are continuing…
It is essential to have better cooperation with Turkey. There are more than two million Syrian refugees, though, already in Turkey, 85% of whom live in cities and only 15% of whom are in accommodation centres. Until two years ago, Turkey was not even in the top 20 countries receiving refugees and now is in the top 3. What has happened in Turkey is huge. Currently, the EU is putting pressure on Turkey to act as a buffer zone in exchange for visa liberalisation. In addition, Turkey rightly also seeks more financial and operational assistance to deal with the 2.1 million Syrians that it hosts. This is a long term negotiation. I think Turks should be given visa liberalisation but should also be encouraged to manage better the migration and asylum flows through their country. Their practices only fuel the smuggling networks activities and profits.

What can we expect from the EU and its institutions such as Frontex in 2016 in order to improve the situation? What must be done?
So far, priority has been given to Frontex and border management, not asylum. Both in terms of financial resources and in terms of operational mandate. This could and should change in the current circumstances. We need a common European asylum system. There must be a fivefold increase of the power and budget of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). During 2013-2014, Frontex’s budget was 115 million euro per year and EASO’s was 15 million. It is also very important to create a European refugee status. We should give EASO such power and jurisdiction. That would allow us to strengthen the common European borders. We should focus mainly on EASO and not on Frontex. We also need an international plan for the resettlement of refugees in other countries, not only in Europe. Refugees should not only be distributed across Europe but in other countries as well, following Indochina’s example2.

What does the border crisis tell us about ourselves? Are migrants the new mirror in front of the European face, confronting it with its past, its incoherence?
I think the refugee crisis brings to the fore pre-existing tensions and dilemmas that have always been there. There is nothing qualitatively or politically new. The problem is that the crisis is of such large dimensions and that it comes after seven years of financial crisis and Eurozone crisis. So it is a difficult and delicate moment in Europe and for the EU. And then there is what we call in Greek “oi Kassandres” – that those that predict disasters are more easily heard than those who speak positively.

First published in English on "Green European Journal", vol. 12, "Border Games: Εurope's Shifting Lines", 11.3.2015.

Anna Triandafyllidou is Professor at the Global Governance Programme (GGP) of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS), European University Institute. She also teaches as Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges since 2002 and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies.

Antonis Galanopoulos holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Political Theory and Philosophy (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki). He is blogger and contributor to various Greek digital and print media.
  • Published in EUROPE

How the E.U.-Turkey Deal Came to Be

Apostolis Fotiadis

German chancellor Angela Merkel has trumpeted the agreement to return Syrian refugees to Turkey from Greece as a "European solution." But with no real accord across the 28 member states, terms and conditions that will be difficult to put into practice and continuing arrivals to Greece, is it truly a breakthrough?

Turkey and the European Union last Friday announced a plan under which Syrian refugees and migrants arriving in Greece will be returned to Turkey. Turkey seems to have agreed to the terms and conditions, despite not all its demands having been met.

The deal also aims to address the dire conditions of Greece's asylum infrastructure. Greece is simply not equipped to cope with the current scales of arrivals, nor is it in a position to process large numbers of asylum requests and conduct mass returns.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel faces a difficult battle over the coming months to keep the deal alive, let alone to develop and implement it. But, deal or no deal, European leaders understand her intentions.

The E.U.-Turkey deal was initially spelled out last October, when it was known as "The Merkel Plan." This was during the same period in which E.U. commissioner Jean-Claude Junker brought up the idea of Greek-Turkish joint patrols on the Aegean Sea to implement the scheme. Greece rejected the idea, instead calling for a bilateral "migrant readmission plan" with Turkey.

When that version of the plan did not pan out, Merkel simply repackaged the underlying ideas. During the last few months of 2015 she put enormous pressure on Brussels and managed to bring Turkey to the negotiating table as a privileged interlocutor. At the time, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu asked for multiple concessions in exchange for mitigating the flow of asylum seekers into the E.U.
These included visa liberalization plans for Turkish citizens, the resumption of E.U.-Turkish accession negotiations and the earmarking of 3 billion euros ($3.4bn) for refugee aid and services.

Despite establishing the E.U.-Turkey negotiations on a council level, last December’s talks led to little progress. The flow of asylum seekers remained very high over the winter and E.U. states were distracted by diplomatic tensions over an impending closure of the Western Balkan route. Turkey, meanwhile, did not express any urgency in wrapping up the deal. It was simply biding its time so it could up the ante. The
plan was reintroduced at the beginning of this year. But this time it was sold as the brainchild of Dutch Labour Party leader Diederik Samsom. The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte smoothly transformed the proposal into an E.U. Presidency plan. Since then it has often been cited as The Samsom-Merkel Plan.

Samsom’s proposal involved the imminent blanket return of all arrivals on Greek soil to be transported back to Turkey in exchange for a package trade-off: a comprehensive resettlement of more than 150,000 registered Syrian refugees from Turkish camps. He hoped for a coalition of the willing – comprising Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria – to implement the resettlement process and absorb the population.

Alas this coalition of the willing quickly vanished when, a couple of weeks later, Austria broke away, aligning itself with the Visegrad Four (an alliance of four central European states - Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) and the Western Balkan side that unilaterally closed down the Western Balkan route to incoming asylum seekers, acting outside of E.U. institutional proceedings.

The "ringfencing" of Greece and blanket returns across the Aegean Sea are not necessarily conflicting ideas for European states that want to reduce the flow of refugees to a trickle. On the contrary, they serve as a complementary double "line of defence," as imagined by the rising nationalist stars, Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who have both called for the containment of refugees within Greece. Merkel denounced the leaders; then she focused on her own strategy.

On March 6, it was Merkel's turn to play the game outside of the bounds of E.U. institutions. She, Davutoglu and Mark Rutte held an impromptu closed-door meeting at the Turkish embassy in Brussels the night before the planned E.U.-Turkey migration summit on March 7. They practically rewrote, at will, the resolutions that would be presented the next morning. They force fed the new version to the E.U. Council, while casually describing it as "some additional ideas by Davutoglu."

And this is how the current version of the E.U.-Turkey deal came to be. The new element is that blanket returns will be based on an one-for-one model, meaning that for every person sent back from Greece to Turkey, one will fly from Turkey to the E.U. to be resettled. Returnees will be relegated to the end of the resettlement queue, in the hope that this will act as a deterrent for those contemplating similar
irregular crossings.

In the lead-up to last week's summit, various parties in Berlin and Brussels have generated inordinate pressure to push through the deal, while Merkel went public on an almost daily basis to promote a so-called "European solution" as the only decent alternative to central European unilateralism.

However, Cyprus arrived at the summit for the final round of talks having announced that it has no intention of permitting full negotiations for Turkey's E.U. membership. The draft text of the summit's resolutions does not mention any specifics on the issue, and many E.U. countries, including France, do not fully agree with the visa
liberalization part of the plan. There have only been vague references for an additional 3 billion euros of aid money, on top of the 3 billion already on the table, on conditional basis and only until 2018.

It is absurd to call such a deal "European" when it is clearly being forced upon so many E.U. partners without their direct involvement in the pre-summit discussions.

The E.U. is yet to come up with a concerted plan to resettle the proposed number of 18,000 people, with a possible addition of 54,000 to this number. So far, participation appears to be on a voluntary basis and is not based on proportional sharing of the burden across its 28 member states.

Observers and advocacy organizations working on the refugee crisis – among them major figures like the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – have attacked the legality of the proposed blanket returns. They have unanimously contested that the deal is a gross violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and various EU treaties and laws. Spain and Sweden have also expressed similar concerns.

The first day the plan was activated, more than 800 people crossed the Aegean, successfully reaching Greek shores. Given that the mechanisms for examining their refugee status and possibly returning them is not yet in place, they – like tens of thousands of others – will be restricted to the islands, until the process practically kicks off.

Without enough preparation time and mounting pressure to implement the deal, the situation on the European side might worsen. Legal, administrative and logistical challenges are inevitable with any new plan. But, failure to implement the one-in-one-out deal could quickly devolve into flagrant legal violations of the protections that should be afforded to all asylum seekers, including those being returned to Turkey. Before E.U. leaders rejoice at sealing the E.U.-Turkey deal, they might want to understand if they have walked into a trap.

Apostolis Fotiadis is a freelance journalist. He has reported on politics since 2005 with an emphasis on European immigration policy and ethnic conflicts in the Balkans. In early 2015, he published his book “Border Merchants” (ed. Potamos) which focused on how the European Union and especially European technocrats and the Commission interpret official immigration policy as a security concern with rapid militarisation of external borders.

First published in English on www.refugeesdeeply.org, 21.3.2016


No more refugees, just “irregulars”...

The deal of shame between E.U.-Turkey

 Stratis Bournazos

Below are some comments in immediate reaction to the agreement as announced on the afternoon of 18th March. We at AnalyzeGreece! consider this agreement to be of particular importance and gravity, which is why we sought to formulate an immediate reaction to it.

1. The agreement reiterates and fully confirms the main points from the statement made by EU leaders on 7th March (except for the added extensive references to international treaties and individual asylum claiming processes – obviously to calm the backlash the absence of these created), a statement strongly criticised by all humanitarian organisations, which claimed that it undermines international law. As regards today's agreement, I will refer to the first, immediate response by Amnesty International: “horrendous deal had been sealed shame on EU”, according to Iverna McGowan (head of Amnesty International al’s EU office), “a cyanide pill” to refugee rights”, according to John Dalhuisen (Amnesty’s Director for Europe and Central Asia”, while the press release is entitled “A historic blow to human rights”. Moreover, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), calls it “the deal of shame”: “European leaders have decided to barter migrants’ and asylum seekers’ dignity and rights for selfish short-term political gain. Such cynicism is despicable”.

2. The main aim, axis and core of the agreement is the stopping of flows from Turkey to Greece and Europe, not the tackling of the refugee crisis, much less the provision of international protection to those who have a right to it, and the protection of refugees. As such, the word “refugee” is only very rarely used in the text; instead, reference is made to migrants and “irregular migrants”. If, however, according to UNHCR data (as cited in a comment by Marilena Katsimi of Facebook), of those crossing the Greek border 91% are refugees (45% Syrian, 28% Afghan, 18% Iraqi - of whom 36% are children and 21% are women), this clearly means the stemming of refugee flows. In other words, the de facto abolition of international treaties, above all the Geneva Conventions, which require the provision of international protection to those in need: if all those wishing to come to Europe (the vast majority of which are refugees), are to be stopped, then they have no access to international protection.

3. For the reasons above, the three “filters for the reduction in flows”, to which Alexis Tsipras referred during the press conference, are all too eloquent. First, the war against traffickers, second, the presence of NATO ships, third, those who manage to pass through these two filters and who reach Greece will in essence be excluded from relocation (as they will be placed at the bottom of the list). In the words of the Prime Minister: “The first filter –and this is an obligation taken on by Turkey– is the dismantling of the network of traffickers operating on Turkish shores. The second filter is the operation of NATO.Turkey has now committed to withdraw the objections it has been posing until now, so that NATO operations can be carried out efficiently and effectively. The third filter was decided upon today. When neither the first nor the second filter are effective, we provide refugees and migrants with a strong disincentive to make use of trafficking networks so that they may reach the Greek islands: those who do come will not have priority in the relocation process and, if they are irregular migrants, they will be swiftly returned. If they are migrants in need of international protection, their claim will be examined on an individual basis [...]. We believe that the message of today's decision, the agreement between the EU and Turkey, is the activation of these three filters, so that we may have an immediate result the reduction of flows from Turkish shores to the Greek islands”. I think the filters speak for themselves, but I will make three comments, one for each filter.

Comment #1: when no legal and safe passage is available, no safe route, everyone, including refugees, makes use of trafficking networks. Therefore, if one takes the decision to “end irregular migration”, as stated in the agreement, then, in the absence of a legal route, one also puts an end to the possibility of refugees coming to Europe (or, more correctly, one makes the journey more expensive and dangerous, as new routes and illegal networks will without doubt be created). Comment #2: NATO ships will, in other words, act as a mobile sea fence throughout the Aegean, which will prevent refugees from reaching the coast. Comment #3: “they will not have priority”. That is, they will be punished, thereby having their right to relocation forfeited.

4. “All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey”, reads the text of the agreement. A key question here is: Who is considered an “irregular migrant”? What will happen to, for example Afghans and Iraqis? I don't think there is any room for optimism: based on the overall spirit of the agreement - everyone will be considered to be irregular, except, perhaps, Syrians. And I say perhaps because there is no certainty even for Syrians. The agreement states that “for every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU” – wording which reveals that Syrians will be returned, too.

5. Yet how will Syrians, who are prima facie considered refugees, be returned to Turkey, especially in light of the fact that the agreement makes explicit reference to respect for international law. The key term here is “safe third country”, which is used in the text. If Turkey is declared a “safe third country”, then Syrians can be returned legally. Of course, declaring Turkey to be a “safe third country” is both arbitrary and provocative, as Turkey has closed its borders with Syria, international organisations condemn it for refugee arrests and abuse, as well as expulsions and push backs to Syria and Iraq, there is no system for claiming asylum in place (except for European citizens, and temporary protection for Syrians), and it is not safe even for its own citizens: at the moment in which the agreement is signed, authoritarianism by the Davutoglu government is in its zenith, with pogroms against Kurds, mass arrests and the persecution of academics and journalists. By the way, the added status granted to Erdogan and Davutoglu through the agreement, precisely at this moment, is scandalous.

6. The resettlement programmes, unfortunately, look like a joke. Out of a total of 2.5 million Syrians in Turkey (a number which goes up to 3 million if we take account of the Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis), only 72,000 will be resettled – an infuriatingly small number, which confirms once more that the agreement bears no relation to any attempt to solve the refugee crisis.

7. Finally, as regards the references being made in the agreement to respect for international law, the processing of individual asylum claims, etc. Very briefly, and running the risk of being un-nuanced, I will say that not all of the eggs can be put in one basket. If the main aim is to curb refugee flows, this cannot take place whilst respecting international law. I will once more cite John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International (by the way, the fact that in the last few days we keep referring to texts by NGOs and humanitarian organisations, not by left wing political parties, is telling – but that is a different story): “Promises to respect international and European law appear suspiciously like sugar-coating the cyanide pill that refugee protection in Europe has just been forced to swallow.”
We will continue our coverage of this very important issue over the next few weeks. Concluding this commentary, I would like to say that the agreement is not a diplomatic success, as Alexiis Tsipras stated, but a significant defeat and embarrassment. Starting today, we must, both in Greece and in Europe, organise our resistance to the agreement. #StopTheDeal, #Refugees Welcome!

PS. Two pieces of good news, coming from Spain, on a Saturday, no less: at  Madrid city hall, the EU flag is at half mast in protest, while in Barcelona a large rally took place against the agreement (rallies had also taken place in previous days, while the Spanish Parliament had rejected the “preliminary” agreement of 7th March).

Stratis Bournazos is a journalist and historian, member of the editorial board of AnalyzeGreece! and Enthemata Avgis.\

Translated by Despina Biri

First published  in Greek on "Enthemata" of the newspaper "Avgi", 20.3.2016.


EU-Turkey deal: a historic blow to rights

John Dalhuisen

European leaders’ collective ‘double-speak’ fails to hide the myriad of contradictions of the deal sealed between the EU and Turkey on how to handle the refugee crisis, said Amnesty International today.

“The ‘double-speak’ this deal is cloaked in fails to hide the European Union’s dogged determination to turn its back on a global refugee crisis, and wilfully ignore its international obligations,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

“Promises to respect international and European law appear suspiciously like sugar-coating the cyanide pill that refugee protection in Europe has just been forced to swallow.”

"Promises to respect international and European law appear suspiciously like sugar-coating the cyanide pill that refugee protection in Europe has just been forced to swallow".

“Guarantees to scrupulously respect international law are incompatible with the touted return to Turkey of all irregular migrants arriving on the Greek islands as of Sunday. Turkey is not a safe country for refugees and migrants, and any return process predicated on its being so will be flawed, illegal and immoral, whatever phantom guarantees precede this pre-declared outcome.”

John Dalhuisen is Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

First published in English on www.amnesty.org/en,  18.3.2016

​​EU-Turkey non-deal: snap analysis

Paul Mason

The EU Summit on 7 March failed to reach agreement with Turkey but the outline of the deal to be done on 17–18 March is clear. Here’s the bullet points from the Heads of State statement, together with my commentary. These are enumerated as “principles”.Your head of state has signed up to them:

* “To return all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands with the costs covered by the EU;”
… Not legal. If these “irregular migrants” claim asylum they are a refugee and protected from return under international law until their claim has been processed. It will be challenged in the courts immediately.

* “To resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the EU Member States, within the framework of the existing commitments;”
…This presumably starts on implementation, and is not retrospective. It leaves around 30,000 refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, which is manageable. But it replaces law with arbitrary power. Who decides which refugees in Turkey get to come to Europe? Why not simply put the ones who want to leave Turkey for Europe on a bus or flight to Berlin, avoiding the peril of crossing to Lesbos, being sent back and then — presumably — joining an arbitrarily organised queue of people in Turkey?
The whole thing would be better organised through the #safepassage demanded by NGOs and will redouble calls for that.

* “To accelerate the implementation of the visa liberalization roadmap with all Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016;”
…Not possible. One state can block it. Will David Cameron sign-off visa free travel for 75 million Turkish citizens to Britain 23 days before the Brexit referendum. Will Poland sign up? Will Cyprus? Dream on.
[Its been pointed out since I wrote this that the visa free agreement is with Schengen only. But the agreement says “all member states” do I think my point is valid.]

* “To speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated 3 billion euros to ensure funding of a first set of projects before the end of March and decide on additional funding for the Refugee Facility for Syrians”
…Remarkably, Erdogan has demanded exactly what he is shown demanding in the leaked Tusk-Erdogan notes, which I have doubted the veracity of. Nevertheless, €6bn would be cheap for Europe if it stemmed voluntarily the desire of people to leave camps in Turkey and come to Europe.

* “To prepare for the decision on the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations as soon as possible, building on the October 2015 European Council conclusions”
…This is one of the most shameful commitments the EU has ever given. We should state, now, there is no possibility of Turkey joining the EU under the AK Party. In the leaked documents that’s what Erdogan says: put us out of our misery. Europe should, as I suggest in the Guardian, signal to the secular, democratic forces in Turkey that it will re-start accession talks only when there has been a stable democracy for, say, five years, with full commitments to human rights, press freedom etc honoured. We should have no truck with the Christian right who say Turkey cannot enter because it is muslim, or because it will flood Europe with cheap labour: the issue is democracy. Turkey cannot begin accession talks because it does not meet the Copenhagen criteria for membership, and is moving in the opposite direction. I think there will be outrage way beyond the Christian right in Europe over this, if it happens.

* “To work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria which would allow for the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe”
…Is this a commitment to create a safe haven? Militarily? Via the Turkish military, which has been covertly supplying IS, and bombing the Kurds? If not, the onus on EU leaders is to say so sharpish because there is no consent in Europe for the creation of safe havens, welcome though they would be.
And that’s it. Nothing on human rights in the entire document; nothing about stop bombing the Kurds; nothing about stop jailing newspaper editors; no incentive to cease burning down the local offices of opposition parties.

The best that can be said is that the negotiations failed and that these are some kind of holding position to stop Erdogan pulling the trigger on another million refugees into the islands.

These bullet points, reflecting Turkey’s demands completely, will never be implemented because the EU leaders represent democracies, where international law applies and where entry into commitments — on visas, EU accession etc — is the subject of parliamentary debate. Get real.

Paul Mason is  a journalist,  writer and  Broadcaster. Author of "Postcapitalism — A Guide to Our Future", producer of "#ThisIsACoup documentary".

First published on medium.com/@paulmasonnews
Subscribe to this RSS feed