Thousands of migrants have been trying to cross the Greek borders illegally after Ankara had announced that it would not stop them. There are about 4 million refugees in Turkey and Europe is at risk of facing the scenario from 2015 when hundreds of thousand migrants headed to Europe.
The decision to open borders came as a result of critical developments in Idlib, where Turkey lost there more than 30 soldiers in one day and was threatened by another massive wave of refugees fleeing a Russian-backed Syrian offensive. This would not only represent a significant economic burden for the country but would also affect the preferences of the Turkish President and the ruling coalition has given the negative attitude of the Turkish public towards refugees.
To this day, the Greek authorities have prevented several thousand attempts to cross the Greek border, and in addition to land crossings, over a thousand people have crossed the Aegean Sea and reached the Greek Islands. Athens has also tightened border protection but stopping the flow of such a substantial number of people will be impossible in the long run. Moreover, Turkey has been actively encouraging migrants to reach the borders by providing them with buses, taxis and further help from Turkish residents. In addition, the Turkish authorities published maps for refugees, showing them the easiest routes to the Greek border.
However, what does Turkey demand from the EU for closing the border again? Although Ankara has not explicitly specified its requirements, there are some signs of what Ankara might ask for. First of all, Turkey has been demanding additional financial assistance beyond the 2016 migration deal. Ankara also insists that the money should be paid directly to the Turkish government, and also requires visa liberalization with the EU and European support for resettling refugees from Turkey. In addition, the Turkish President has repeatedly called on the EU to support refugees in Idlib, secure a no-fly zone over Turkey’s controlled territories in Syria, and support reconstruction of the areas. It can be expected that Erdogan will also demand European support in the form of a no-fly zone or military-logistical support for Turkish plan to secure the area to prevent any attempt by Moscow and Damascus to conquer the region in the future. Erdogan has already rejected an offer of 1.1 billion Euros from the EU, which only confirms the complex nature of Turkish demands and also the desire to maximize profits.
The future development of the situation will thus depend mainly on the EU’s willingness to meet all the Turkish requirements. The question remains, however, whether Turkey is willing to act quickly at all – the statements made by Erdogan so far show a high level of determination to leave the borders open. This is mainly due to the broad support for such a move among the Turkish population, as well as the lack of trust among the Turkish leadership towards the EU. As they believe, it was the EU that was not willing to abide by the terms of the migration deal of 2016.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
Responsible editor Matúš Jevčák.
Author: Barbora Krasová
The text has not undergone language revision.