'Western European elites support migration independently of their voters'

Refugees wait to disembark from a Coast Guard ship in the Sicilian harbour of Messina, Italy © Antonio Parrinello
The refugee crisis seems to be a gold mine the Turks opened up, unless the war in Syria continues. That will not be in their interests to stop the war, says Prof. Laszlo Maracz from the University of Amsterdam.

RT: Turkey signed an agreement with the EU at a summit in Brussels in which the country will help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for €3 billion ($3.18bn) in support and the reestablishing of talks on EU accession. What is your opinion about this Turkey-EU refugee deal?

Prof. Laszlo Maracz: What we see actually is now with this contract or this conclusion between Turkey and the European Union, the EU has admitted that it is not able to protect its external borders. So, in the past months we have seen at any summit that this was declared and promised that they would do everything to protect the external borders of the European countries and the European Commission. Now, what we see is that this issue has been given away to Turkey, and Greece and Italy are not able to do this. So, basically, the tension within Europe between, let’s say, ‘the coalition of the willing’ - the countries supporting this massive influx of migrants - and the countries that want to have a more restricted policy, this tension is remaining. So actually the summit this weekend in Brussels hasn’t solved this issue. So, I think the tensions in Europe will remain and it is quite unclear what the next step in this procedure will be.

RT: Will this actually help solve the EU refugee crisis and how, in your opinion, could it affect the functioning of the Schengen system?

LM: A few weeks ago we had that announcement by Sweden, but on November, 27 we also had Dutch PM Marc Rutte who said that the stream of refugees should stop. And now he agreed actually with the other countries in ‘the coalition of the willing’ to adopt another 400,000 migrants in the near future. So, it is a bit puzzling what is going on. So, politicians are contradicting their own statements, are speaking with double tongues. And this makes it very unlikely that this sort of policy making, these sorts of measures will have large support in Europe…The Western European elites, they basically support this migration independently of the democratic support of their own voters, and this will give problems.

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I am not very convinced that Turkey will protect the borders effectively. And suppose that even if Turkey is doing this, only 10 percent of the people who are entering Europe are not from the Middle East or Afghanistan - this we know from the Macedonian figures. So, if Turkey will slow down the influx of illegal migration it will only affect 10 percent of the people because the others have been invited by the German Chancellor [Angela Merkel]. And then we have the problem with Italy’s borders – the Italian islands are open for refugees from the northern parts of Africa, Libya is open. So, if Europe is not willing - and it seems that it is not willing - to protect its external borders then, of course, the Schengen regime cannot be maintained. So, I agree with Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council that this is a very delicate situation Europe has maneuvered itself into. So, whether we will be able to keep this Schengen system functioning - it is a big question mark, I think.  

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RT: It seems that Turkey is benefiting from this refugee crisis, isn’t it?

LM: I think Turkey is the only winning side. They got a lot of money, a lot of free access to Europe and a restart of the European accession negotiations basically for free because they don’t need to do anything for it. They cannot give guarantees that they will control the borders. So, from the perspective of Europe this is actually ‘old wine and new bottles’. So, there is nothing new in this contract. Turkey has been on the winning side in European negotiations in the past decades. And, basically, this is continuing. And there are no hard commitments for protecting the border, and Europe has failed in order to do so and has given this away to a third party. So, Turkey has been very effective in this diplomacy, but basically I must admit this was not so difficult because Europe was not committed to defend its external borders by its own force.   

Turkey has been one of the benefiting from the war in Syria. So, we see that Turkey has no direct interest in stopping the war in Syria. So this will be a very interesting situation because the refugees stream - if the war goes on in Syria - will keep on growing in Turkey and then all the time Europe will take these refugees over and will pay Turkey for that. So, it seems to be a gold mine the Turks have opened unless the war in Syria will continue. And it will not be in their interests to stop the war.

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RT: What are the possible consequences of this Turkey-EU refugee deal?

LM: We know that Turkish passports are not fraud-free. So, probably there will be an enormous commercialization. Probably, what refugees and migrants from outside of Europe will try to do is to go to Turkey and to gather Turkish passports and try to get into Europe. So, in order to have this system working Turkish citizens should not have received a visa-free entrance to Europe, because now it will be probably used by human smugglers, by people who will try to buy illegal Turkish passports… It again focuses that Frontex and all European agencies for protecting the border cannot give this away to the Turkish authorities. Europe has to be active in the border protection of Greece and Italy independently of what the Turkish authorities will do.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.