Why Erdogan’s re-election can save the EU’s migration policy

Istanbul, Brussels The confirmation of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Turkish President also has advantages for the EU. It is true that many European politicians were stunned by the fact that the Turks once again opted for the autocrat. But on migration issues, he is a more pleasant partner for Brussels than his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu would have been.

“There have always been better and worse times in the relationship between the EU and Turkey. Perhaps now there is an opportunity to come to more effective cooperation,” said the migration expert at the European Policy Centre, Anastasia Karatzas.

Since 2016, the EU and Turkey have had an agreement under which the EU sends money to Turkey, which in turn prevents millions of refugees in the country from leaving for the EU.

In practice, Erdogan often ignored provisions of this agreement. But Kilicdaroglu would have gone much further. He recently openly threatened to send Syrians from Turkey to Europe if the EU and its member states did not help the Syrians return home.

“If the European Union does not provide these funds, I will not keep these people here,” Kilicdaroglu announced. “I’m sorry but I will open the doors,” he added. He then threatened to terminate the agreement with the EU.

>> Read here: Why the Turkish opposition relied on right-wing extremists

In it, Turkey had undertaken to take in refugees who had traveled illegally to the EU via Turkey. In return, the EU promised progress in visa liberalization at the time.

If the opposition had come to power, the EU would have had to completely reassess refugee cooperation with Turkey. Anastasia Karatzas, migration expert at the European Policy Centre

Erdogan, on the other hand, had deliberately set the tone on the subject of migration in a cautious manner. Turkey is already building a cross-border infrastructure to make it easier for Syrians to return voluntarily to their home country, Erdogan said on Thursday before the runoff election. “Moreover, with Qatar’s support, work continues to build homes in Syria that can accommodate a million refugees.”

The president said there should be a “humane, conscientious and Islamic” aspect to these efforts, stressing that Turkey cannot send back Syrians “by force”.

Ankara prepares resettlement

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had attended the laying of the foundation stone for a construction project in the northern Syrian district of Jarablus the day before. There he said that a total of 240,000 houses would be built in nine different locations in the northern Syrian border regions of Idlib and Afrin over the next few years.

If the European Union does not provide these funds, I will not keep these people here. Erdogan challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu

In addition to residential buildings, the project will also include agricultural land, commercial facilities, production and industrial areas and all social facilities from education to health care, explained Soylu.

“There are many doubts as to whether relocation to Syria is a sustainable solution,” says migration expert Karatzas. “The EU will be in demand all the more when it comes to making better offers.” This would open up new opportunities for cooperation between Brussels and Ankara. “Had the opposition come to power, the EU would have had to completely reassess refugee cooperation with Turkey.”

rapprochement with Assad

Meanwhile, Turkey is again seeking contact with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus to return Syrian refugees from Turkey not only to safe zones but also to regime-controlled cities, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

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Erdogan’s election victory makes EU migration policy easier.

(Photo: imago images/Michael Kneffel)

“We have to send the Syrians back to the cities they came from. We have started talks with the regime and reached a consensus to lay the groundwork for this,” Cavusoglu said.

>> Read here: Erdogan’s refugee pact with the EU is faltering

So far, over half a million Syrians have been sent back to their homes, but that’s not enough, the Turkish diplomat noted, adding that both sides are working on a roadmap for building the necessary infrastructure. “We are determined to send the Syrians back, but we must do so honorably.”

Spanish election complicates consensus in Brussels

During the Syrian civil war, Ankara supported opposition fighters who wanted to overthrow Assad’s regime. Millions of people fled across the border because of the war; According to the Ministry of the Interior, around 3.3 million people from Syria are still living in Turkey twelve years after the beginning of the civil war.

New home



Twelve years after the start of the civil war, people from Syria are still living in Turkey.

A defeat for Erdogan would probably have meant that Turkey would take a much more aggressive approach to repatriating Syrian refugees. Many of them are threatened with persecution by the regime there. It would therefore not have been improbable that the Syrians would have set off in large numbers towards the EU.

>> Read here: Who will actually vote for Erdogan?

The debates in Brussels about a coordinated asylum policy for the EU states would then have been made even more difficult. It is about how the countries of arrival should deal with refugees, how asylum procedures can be accelerated, whether the EU is allowed to finance border fences, how accepted asylum seekers are distributed among the EU states and much more.

Hopes were pinned on the Spanish government, which will take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months from July and should have explored compromises in this role.

After the regional elections at the weekend, which ended poorly for his party, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has now scheduled new elections for July 23. This should significantly reduce the clout of the Spaniards in Brussels.

Because for Sanchez, the presidency will hardly play the greatest role in the hot phase of the election campaign. And experience has shown that a new government needs some time before it can make its own mark on the EU stage.

More: Erdogan wins and threatens – The West must finally learn to deal with autocrats

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