An important meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Angel Merkel and Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to take place in Istanbul on Tuesday, during which the leaders will discuss developments around the refugee issue.
The agenda comprises the Turkish President’s decision to open the gates and the events caused by that development at the Greek-Turkish border, as well as the tensions that arose within Greece following the attempts of thousands of refugees and immigrants to cross the border.
Political analysts were not expecting any notable results from Erdogan’s meeting with European Council President Charles Michel but also with EC President Ursula Von der Leyen, as Ankara believes that actual negotiations should involve the leaders of major European countries and not be carried out through the institutions.
This was also evident in the way the Turkish President left Brussels without attending the planned press conference.
At Tuesday’s meeting Erdogan is expected to table specific requests from the EU. Michel and Von der Leyen, however, were not able to reach an agreement with him, and that is why Macron and Merkel will be meeting him.
Turkey claims that the March 18th declaration on refugees provided for the allocation of 6 billion euros for the approximately 2 million refugees who were residing at the time in Turkish territory. Ankara, however, now claims that there are 4 million refugees from Syria living in Turkey today, with an additional 3.5 million refugees coming from Idlib, alongside immigrants and refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and African countries. Turkey now seeks to negotiate for 9 million people and claim funds appropriate for that size.
At the same time, the Turkish government is also arguing for other conditions that have not been met. One of them is the opening of new chapters on Turkey’s EU accession path, the updating of the customs union and visa liberalization for Turkish citizens. Regarding the latter, Europe has asked for the 72 criteria to be met; Ankara has only prepared 66 and, according to Hurriyet newspaper, Erdogan is asking that the six points that Turkey has not yet met are temporarily overlooked.
One striking demand by Erdogan is that Ankara start being invited to EU summits. In addition to the criteria, Turkey also requests that funds be sent directly to its own organizations and NGOs, such as the Red Crescent, the Turkish Coast Guard and the City Bank.
However, Brussels is making it clear that, as long as the borders remain open and as long as pressure is exerted on Greece through the refugee issue, the discussions cannot proceed. This is also the real reason the Turkish government has announced that the border has been closed on the Asia Minor coast for those refugees and immigrants who want to cross into Greece. With that decision, Ankara wanted to show that despite Erdogan’s statements around the “opening of the border”, Turkey is complying with its March 18 Statement. But at the same time, 6,000 refugees and immigrants remain in Pazarkule across Kastanies and are carrying out daily attempts to cross the Greek border, with the Turkish military and the police authorities doing nothing to stop them.
This issue can be resolved immediately after the three meet in Istanbul. /ibna