Europe is set to agree a deal that it is illegal and unenforceable, and everyone knows it, so British voters will undoubtedly grow wearier of the EU
Angela Merkel has been dubbed the “Iron Lady” of Europe – a somewhat superficial comparison with the British original based largely on the fact that the German chancellor was a female politician of longevity who started out life as a chemist.
But as Europe’s migrant crisis inexorably deepens, the comparison has taken on a new judiciousness as Mrs Merkel becomes increasingly divorced from reality: a figure that once radiated calmness and power now sounds shrill and isolated.
Take today’s European Council where EU leaders are due to agree a deal between the EU and Turkey in which migrants will be deported en masse from the Greek islands in exchange for Europe agreeing to resettle the same number of refugees direct from Turkish refugee camps.
Addressing German MPs before travelling to Brussels this week Mrs Merkel hailed the coming agreement as “a decisive point for resolving the refugee crisis” that presents “a real chance at a sustainable and pan-European solution to the refugee crisis”.
Even allowing for some pre-summit rhetoric, this is self-evidently untrue; Europe is nowhere near close to having the “pan-European” solution that Mrs Merkel has been trying – and conspicuously failing – to enforce on member states for over a year now.
As a case in point, six months after the European Commission announced another “deal” to relocate 160,000 refugees around Europe, this week it admitted that it has managed a pitiful 937 relocations thus far.
Apparently undeterred by this miserly achievement, Mrs Merkel went ahead and pretty much single-handedly brokered a ‘deal’ with Turkey that promises refugee relocations to Europe that could run into the hundreds of thousands a year.
This despite the fact that Eastern European states have already ruled out taking a single refugee and France says it won’t take more than the 30,000 it has already signed up for; which leaves a wholly inadequate “coalition of the willing” consisting of Germany and perhaps Sweden and the Netherlands.
The lack of realism doesn’t end there. Even before it was signed, Mrs Merkel’s plan to put the refugees back onto boats to Turkey was declared illegal by the UN refugee agency since under the Geneva Convention every refugee must be able to make their claim for asylum individually.
And even if that were possible – a scenario that envisages mass processing centres in Greece – it is still very far from clear that Turkey, which is pushing Syrians back across the border and looking to sign readmission agreements with countries like Afghanistan, can be considered a “safe third country”.
But the folly does not end even there. Among the sweeteners being offered to Turkey is the promise (by June) of visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish businessmen and tourists – yet another example of where the Merkel deal has taken a reality bypass.
To get visa-free access to Europe Turkey must meet 72 pre-set criteria – about half of which currently remain unmet, and which France and Spain in particular have made clear they have no intention of softening.
There is, therefore, no immediate prospect of visa-free travel for 75m Turks and yet European leaders look set to sign a promise to make that happen, knowing full well that it is meaningless – just like that ‘deal’ to relocate 160,000 refugees around Europe.
Nothing corrodes credibility and authority – whether of parents, teachers or the European Union and Mrs Merkel – as much as wilful, knowing meaninglessness.
Yet again, Europe is about to agree to a deal that is illegal, impractical and unenforceable, and everyone knows it – not least the German public, 71 per cent of whom do not believe it can work according to a YouGov poll this week.
That is the real reason Mrs Merkel – like the Iron Lady before her – is losing touch with her party, which duly received a drubbing in last weekend’s regional elections because too many of her loyal voters have lost faith in her ability to focus on what is practically deliverable.
This weary sentiment is not confined to Germany. We are less than 100 days before Britain votes on its EU membership; the sight of EU leaders announcing another hubristic deal that only advertises their impotence can only increase the numbers of UK voters who feel the same way.