November 25 2016
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that his government will open its border gates to allow migrants to flow into Europe if it is pushed any further by the EU. It comes after lawmakers in the bloc voted to halt membership.
Why he would allow a deliberate Trojan Horse is quite revealing.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that he will let hundreds of thousands of migrants travel on to Europe if pushed by the EU.
He was reacting to a non-binding vote by the European Parliament to freeze talks on EU membership for Turkey.
The MEPs were alarmed by Mr Erdogan’s “disproportionate” response to a failed coup attempt in July.
The migrant numbers reaching the Greek islands have dropped since an EU-Turkey deal in March to curb the influx.
President Erdogan accused the EU of breaking its promises. As part of the March deal, Turkey was promised aid, visa-free travel for its nationals and accelerated membership talks.
“Listen to me: these border gates will be opened if you go any further,” he warned the EU on Friday.
A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ulrike Demmer, said the deal was in the “interest of all parties” and that “threats on either side are not helpful”.
If the European Parliament hoped its vote to freeze accession talks with Turkey would prompt President Erdogan to row back on his policies, today came the answer.
It is Turkey’s trump card: the key role it played in stemming the migrant flow under a deal with the EU to return failed asylum seekers here. And an increasingly combative Mr Erdogan seems ready to play it.
His tone – and his threat – are classic tactics of a president who knows Europe needs Turkey. And it is a sign that a man not known for a thick skin will not take the European Parliament vote lightly.
It is non-binding and Europe’s leaders are unlikely to heed it, given how important Turkey is.
But the bad blood between the two sides is thickening – and the shaky EU-Turkey deal to halt the migrant flow looks more fragile still.