The President of the German Parliament Norbert Lammert – a member of Angela Merkel’s own party – leaked the warning ahead of a planned visit to Ankara by the German Chancellor in the latest round of negotiations over the EU-Turkey migrant deal.
The negotiations – which would allow for the relocation of “irregular migrants” from Greece to Turkey in return, on a one-for-one basis for Syrian refugees in Turkey being relocated in EU member states – have hit the rocks over conditions which Turkey must meet, particularly over human rights, humanitarian and media freedoms. Erdogan has refused a condition to loosen anti-terror legislation that he has used against journalists and opposition media companies.
If those conditions are not met, Turkish citizens will not be able to have visa-free access to the Schengen zone and the acceleration of Turkey’s accession to the EU will not be sped up, which is part of the deal.
Merkel is now facing the biggest rift between her CDU party and its sister Bavarian CSU party since its foundation following the Second World War, with the CSU leader Horst Seehofer threatening to stand against Merkel at the 2017 federal elections, in which a poll by German magazine Cicero shows that two-thirds of Germans do not want to back Merkel or her party.
Immoral or Illegal?
Many relief agencies – including Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children and Red Cross – have joined the UN refugee agency UNHCR in saying the EU-Turkey deal is either immoral or illegal as the ‘hotspots’ have become detention centers. They also say Turkey is not a ‘safe country’ for migrants to be returned to, under the Geneva Convention.
Speaking in the European Parliament, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Sophie In’ t Veld said:
“This so-called agreement is extremely fragile, both legally and in practice. We outsource our problems, hope Turkey and other countries will keep refugees away from our doorstep. Europe is divided, paralyzed and weak; Erdogan knows this. The only answer to this is European unity.”
Merkel is facing her worst political crisis since coming to power, with time ticking away to the next federal elections in 2017, at which – until a year ago – many would have put money on her winning another term.
Now that bet is off, as her party faces a potential split amid the continuing political crisis over the migrant deal with Turkey – which may never come off.
If there is no Turkey deal because Erdogan continues to play hardball over the anti-terror law, oppression of independent journalists and human rights, the flood of migrants from Turkey may increase once again, causing further migrant flows and deepening divisions in Europe.