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    Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) shakes hands with European Council President Donald Tusk after a news conference at the end of a EU-Turkey summit in Brussels March 8, 2016.

    EU-Turkey Migrant Agreement: Bad Deal for Europeans, Bad Deal for the Turks

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    Last week, Turkey and the EU hammered out a draft agreement to tackle the Middle Eastern migrant crisis. With European opposition forces and analysts describing the deal as 'blackmail' by Ankara, it turns out much of Turkey's opposition isn't too thrilled about the deal either.

    Last Monday, the EU-Turkey summit resulted in the outline of an agreement aimed at stemming the flow of illegal immigrants from the Middle East to the EU via Turkey. The deal envisions €3 billion in EU assistance (with Ankara now demanding that this be upped €6 billion), faster implementation of a visa-free regime with the bloc, and the acceleration of talks on Turkey's prospects for joining the EU. In exchange, Ankara has pledged to take back all undocumented migrants entering the bloc through Turkey, swapping them on a one-for-one basis for legal Syrian refugees.

    The common principles agreed upon last week will be elaborated upon at the next summit, scheduled for March 17.

    The draft agreement has been severely criticized by a wide variety of European commentators and lawmakers, who have broadly suggested that it is a case of Ankara 'blackmailing' Europe.

    It also happens that, for a number of reasons, Turkish opposition parties of all stripes aren't so happy about the tentative deal either.

    Speaking to Radio Sputnik Turkey, Ozkan Yalim, an MP from the Republican People's Party (the Turkish parliament's largest opposition party), suggested that the proposed agreement is one-sided in the EU's favor.

    "On the whole, the summit can be called an operation by the EU to return refugees who have spread across Europe to Turkey," the politician noted. "Those fragmentary 'concessions' which the EU agreed to in the negotiations clearly demonstrate this. At a time when Turkey is experiencing a major unemployment crisis…spending on refugees on Turkish territory continues to grow. Figures for 2015 showed this figure to amount to $10.5 billion. Even if we assume that this figure will not increase greatly in 2016, it is still a very heavy burden for the country's budget."

    "Meanwhile," Yalim added, "the financial aid figure proposed by the EU is simply ludicrous. We all understand perfectly well that the real burden on the Turkish economy for implementing the agreement on the return of refugees would be many times higher."

    "Unfortunately, while the [ruling] Justice and Development Party (AKP) proudly talks about the prospects to abolish Schengen visas for Turkish citizens, Turkey itself is turning, at an alarming rate, into a reservation for refugees; this process is clearly observable; the most recent example is the beginning of the patrol of the Aegean Sea by NATO ships…European countries, having approached the protection of their borders in a professional manner, have 'appeased' Turkey with promises to provide various benefits and a certain amount of money."

    Ultimately, Yalim noted, Ankara's existing policy will only do harm to Turkey and the Turkish people. "Given such a huge uncontrolled influx of migrants, it will be almost impossible to ensure security. And this, in turn, will lead to an increased threat of terrorism in Turkey. The AKP government, the president and the prime minister must urgently review their policy on migration, before it's too late."

    Elements of the country's radical nationalists aren't too happy with the deal either. In a separate interview for Radio Sputnik Turkey, Zuhal Topcu, the deputy chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party, suggested that there are reasons to doubt whether the Brussels bureaucracy is even able to fulfill its promises.

    "It's important to pay attention to how the promises made by the two sides in the course of the summit are reflected in the work of the European Parliament, because the objection of even one state will affect the final decision rendered by the body. We consider that all the promises made [last Monday] are of no value until a final decision is made. We adhere to this position based on the experience of cooperation between Turkey and the EU which exists, and the rhetoric European countries have used in relation to Turkey for a long time," the politician noted.

    Echoing Yalim's sentiment on the financial and other strains refugees have caused, Topcu suggested that while the country is obliged to "fulfill its moral obligation to providing refuge to these people, on the other hand, this duty should not and cannot interfere with the normal functioning of the state."

    Ultimately, the politician suggested, "if the situation continues to develop along the current scenario, the return of refugees to Turkey could lead to an uncontrollable social explosion in the country. This threat exists, it is very real, and so the government should act extremely cautiously on this issue."

    Finally, in a third interview for Radio Sputnik Turkey, Hisyar Ozsoy, the deputy chairman of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, suggested that President Erdogan and the AKP were themselves responsible for the crisis.

    "Yes, Turkey is now going through the second wave of a migrant crisis, but this [situation] is directly linked to the government's Syrian policy. In reality, Turkish authorities, through their actions, have deliberately driven the situation to its current state," the politician said.

    Ozsoy also believes that Europe is not in a condition to help Turkey resolve its crisis. "The Schengen area faces serious pressures from the migrants. Opinions have been expressed that the EU has already begun the process of collapse – that's how serious the threat represented by uncontrolled migration flows is." 

    Unfortunately, the politician noted, the Turkish government, "which understands this perfectly," nonetheless continues to play the refugee problem like a card in a game of diplomatic poker.

    Moreover, "the EU's strategy on this issue is not so different from that of the Turkish leadership. Europe understands perfectly well that Ankara is playing a game, using illegal immigrants as an instrument of coercion for the sake of its own interests, but at the same time, turns a blind eye to this fact, comforting themselves with the thought that they have 'no other choice' in seeking to rid themselves of the burden of this problem."

    "In this way, the issue is being discussed like an open auction, with human lives at stake. From this point of view, the behavior of both the EU and Turkey looks criminally inhumane."

    Ultimately, Ozsoy warned, the situation in southeastern Turkey, specifically Ankara's brutal crackdown of the Kurds, is itself turning into a "very worrying political situation, which with the coming of spring could turn into a full-scale war and spread from the east to the west of the country…In such a situation, millions of refugees from Turkey could again rush for Europe. However, Brussels does not take this danger into consideration, looking at the issue in a very narrow way, taking short-term decisions in the hope of returning to stability. But such policy, in the long run, may backfire against Europe."

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