Magazine article The Spectator

Leading Article: Turkey's Blackmail

Magazine article The Spectator

Leading Article: Turkey's Blackmail

Article excerpt

Looked at from the narrow perspective of how to deal with the lethal business of human trafficking across the Aegean, this week's deal between the EU and Turkey shows some encouraging signs. Slowly, the EU seems to be realising that the surest way to stop migrants dying in unseaworthy boats is to adopt similar measures to those used by Tony Abbott the former Australian Prime Minister: turn back the boats, and deport those who land illegally. The Australians paid Malaysia to help handle the migrant problem. The EU is paying Turkey more than £4 billion over the next three years to contain 2.5 million refugees.

The problem, however, is that Turkey is being offered more than money. The EU, in its desperation, says that within a few months it will offer Turkey's 77 million citizens the ability to travel to any of its 28 member states without the need for a visa. Worse, it will fast-track Turkey's application to become a full member of the EU -- and turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses of Recep Erdogan's regime. Not that he wants to join the EU: he just wants to show his domestic audience that can behave how he likes, lock up who he likes, and have the EU eating out of his hand.

Looked at in the whole, what we saw this week was not so much a mutual agreement as the EU giving into Turkey's demands. David Cameron was unable to negotiate a significant deal for Britain in the EU because he used reason, rather than threats.

It is nearly 30 years since Turkey first applied to become a member of the EU. Negotiations in earnest began in 2005, when it was made clear that Turkey would not be admitted until it made serious progress in democratisation and improved its dismal record on human rights. Since then, the country has gone backwards in these respects. Three days before this week's summit, Turkish police raided the offices of the Istanbul newspaper Zaman . The publication is now run by Erdogan's government.

This is just the latest in a series of authoritarian crackdowns: the Turkish state has been imprisoning critics, and turning the screw on Kurdish separatists. Now, if Erdogan takes the hammer to the Kurds, he can expect the EU to say nothing.

Erdogan's recent behaviour suggests he no longer fears censure from the EU. Almost 2,000 people have already been indicted under an article in Turkey's criminal code forbidding insulting remarks towards the president. …

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