Turkey’s suspension of a deal for immigrants to be returned from Greece, as “retaliation” for the freeing of eight Turkish military officers who requested asylum in our country, is a supreme act of arrogance; it shows that Ankara’s desire to put pressure on Athens takes precedence over respect for agreements, even if breaking them causes problems for the European Union. Ankara’s decision may cause very serious problems for Greece, but it is, at the same time, a confession of the Turkish government’s diplomatic and political weakness.
Ankara has consistently managed to achieve the greatest concessions from other countries because of Turkey’s geostrategic value, its military strength and its economy. It makes gains without conceding anything, while its transgressions go unpunished. The EU-Turkey deal on refugees and migrants is a good example. Turkey played a leading role in the destabilization of Syria, and allowed (if it did not actively encourage) the mass migration to Europe through Greece; then Ankara exploited Germany’s panic two years ago and agreed to control the flow and accept returns from Greece, in exchange for money and the promise of the waiver of visas for Turkish citizens.
Since then, although it did reduce the number of people heading for Europe, Ankara did not abide by other conditions of the deal, with regard to following EU principles when dealing with other countries (mainly Greece and Cyprus) and in the government’s treatment of Turkish citizens. It wanted privileges without preconditions. (Maintaining that tactic, it now claims that is breaking an old deal with Greece, not the EU-Turkey agreement. However, if returns stop, the result is the breaking of both deals.)
Until today, the international community has been at a loss as to how to respond to Turkey’s predilection for taking hostage the citizens of other countries (including the United States, Germany and Greece), its ever more aggressive behavior toward neighbors and other countries, its violations of human rights and subversion of the rule of law at home. Lately, however, Ankara seems to have forgotten that threats work only as long as they are not carried out. So, if Turkey does break the deal with Greece because it was enraged by Athens over an issue that is at the core of EU principles – granting asylum to people who are in danger of unfair treatment at home – then it is perhaps time for the international community to accept that when carrots do not work all that remains is the stick. If the EU and the US begin to put pressure on Turkey – either through stricter visa procedures or through sanctions – then Turkish citizens might see more clearly where their government’s favored tactics of extortion and unilateral demands are leading.