News & Politics

It's On! Merkel Warns Erdogan: Time for a Freeze of Negotiations with the EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is applauded by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following her speech during a roundtable meeting on "Political Leadership to Prevent and End Conflicts" at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Monday, May 23, 2016. World leaders and representatives of humanitarian organisations from across the globe converge in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016 for the first World Humanitarian Summit, focused on how to reform a system many judge broken. (Ozan Kose/Pool Photo via AP)

With elections coming up in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is suddenly changing her tune with regards to Turkey, the country ruled by the increasingly autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Where she initially spoke positively about Turkey’s negotiations with the European Union, which Ankara hopes will eventually result in full EU membership, she has now told her own party she’s in favor of a negotiations freeze.

According to European media, Merkel said to her own party’s (CDU, Christian Democrats) members of parliament that she no longer believes the talks with Turkey will do any good for that country’s democratic process. She pointed at Erdogan’s attempts to destroy the Gülen movement, which he holds responsible for the failed coup plot in July of this year, and his treatment of the Kurds.

Although the European Parliament voted to freeze the negotiations earlier this month as well, that vote was largely symbolic. Still, the vote caused an uproar in Ankara, with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim slamming parliament for not having “a vision,” saying:

We expect EU leaders to stand up against this lack of vision. The EU should decide whether it wants to continue its future vision with or without Turkey.

Well, those European leaders seem to have made up their minds: They do not want to continue their future vision with Turkey. At least not for now, and not as far as Merkel is concerned.

Earlier, Erdogan himself already warned the European Union that if the talks were indeed frozen, he’d open the floodgates for the millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees desperately wanting to migrate to the EU. Because Turkey and the EU made a deal — Turkey would receive billions in financial aid and talks about its potential EU membership would be sped up — Erdogan basically closed his country’s borders with the EU. If he is to be believed, that might very well change if Merkel puts her money where her mouth is.

Although that’s certainly unpleasant for European countries, it shouldn’t scare them too much. After all, when push comes to shove, every country is responsible for its own border security. It was a strategic mistake to give Turkey this power over Turkey; it was clear from day one that he would abuse that power and use threats to get his way — all the time.

We now have to hope that Merkel has indeed grown a spine, and that she’s willing to push for border-control efforts in and by Europe itself. There is no reason whatsoever to depend on Turkey. Just send those refugees, when they come, back to wherever it is they came from. Make them Erdogan’s problem. Considering Turkey’s current economic misery, a real refugee crisis could very well end up being the nail in his political coffin. And that would be good news for all involved (the EU and Turks) — except for Erdogan himself, of course.