After the heartbreaking pictures of lifeless body of baby Aylan went viral in the western media, we had pointed out that it would be wrong to expect the shock caused by this incident to be permanent and had warned that No one should expect dramatic changes. The world will forget this and go back to its usual ways, just like it happened so many times before.
There is no doubt that Aylan’s tragedy caused important changes in people’s hearts but the truth of the matter is that the situation in the political arena remains unchanged. It is true that for a short time European power tried to take some of the responsibility with regards to the refugees but they later decided otherwise. This was the main reason behind German Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Istanbul last week.
Although Merkel came to Istanbul mostly for her own country, in a sense, she was also here as a representative of Europe in general. She wanted to find ways to curb the influx of refugees, as Germany was the main destination of these hapless people. To this end, she put various offers on the table. Let us remind at this point that Germany displayed the most admirable attitude in Europe and offered the most help to the refugees. The most important offer discussed during the visit was the possibility of keeping refugees in Turkey and repatriating those that had already reached Europe, back to the country they came from, within a Readmission Agreement to be signed. According to this, Turkey was going to be provided with financial aid close to 3 billion Euros, albeit the amount is not certain, along with some special rights with respect to the EU membership, which should have been given a long time ago anyway.
One of the most important rights was about visa exemption to Turkish citizens. It also provided that with the Readmission Agreement, Turkey would be a part of the Schengen Agreement from July next year. Turkey makes a friendly threat of not accepting the readmission offer if the promise is not kept.
When Turkey signs the Readmission Agreement Turkey-EU negotiations, which almost came to a complete halt seven years ago, will be resumed with new phases. In other words, European Union, after having frozen negotiations with Turkey for various reasons, will be restarting them “out of necessity.”
Realpolitik refers to “a system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations.” It was first developed and implemented by Otto von Bismarck (1866), the founder of German Empire. Today, realpolitik, supported by materialistic policies, which claim that civilizations can get stronger only through constant conflict and that national interests are above everything else, have turned many countries extremely selfish over time.
This possible treaty between Europe and Turkey is portrayed as a “win-win” policy and a success of realpolitik. As it will get Turkey back to the negotiation table with EU, Germany will no longer have to deal with the refugee burden, giving Merkel a boost for the coming 2017 elections. Although there are so many charitable and benevolent Germans, it is a known fact that 53 percent of the German population doesn’t want the refugees.
Although it is a success in terms of countries’ interests, we shouldn’t forget that people who lost everything they had while running away from war are in question here. When other countries make deals over the life struggle of downtrodden people that had to flee their own countries, with an attitude of “I don’t want them, you keep them,” it raises one question whether Aylan has taught anything at all to the world in terms of humanity. From a realpolitik point of view, such a mindset might not have any problems, indeed, it might seem as a good opportunity to many. However, in terms of humanity, it calls for a serious reconsideration of moral values.
Surely, there are good sides of this situation. First of all, this treaty will hopefully curb illegal crossings to Europe over sea and help prevent new deaths like Aylan’s. Furthermore this Readmission Agreement requires that the countries that refugees are sent back should be safe places where refugees’ rights are guaranteed in an environment of democracy and good living standards. At the moment, this safe place is Turkey and ensuring such conditions with the support of EU is a great opportunity for Turkey. Turkey has already accepted 2.5 million refugees without any hesitation and gave an unforgettable lesson to the whole world in the process. That welcoming attitude will make us eternally proud of our country. However, it is true that Turkey was caught off guard by the sudden influx of refugees. Overcoming problems and providing necessary means and rights to the refugees, which they fully deserve, with the support of EU, is something we have wanted and expected all along.
Refugee issue, in addition to being a humanitarian problem, has shown two important facts to Turkey and the EU:
First is that although previously the EU had tried to push Turkey away with all its might, mostly for the reason that Turkey is a Muslim country, EU had to remember that Turkey is also a European country, too. European Union is clearly in need of a democratic, European Muslim country at the gateway to the Middle East. History has repeatedly shown its importance and makes its point one more time with the crisis in Syria.
Secondly, it is very important that Turkey develops a mindset and attitude that champion democracy, freedoms, women’s rights, art, and quality if it really is a European country. It has to build all its policies and priorities based on this mindset. It should not give way to radical mentality that wish to benefit from Europe’s freedom and justice, while strictly opposing all its values.
The world is changing. We hope that this new era will be one our Syrian guests find more peace in our country.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arab News: