Some preliminary thoughts on today's EU-Turkey summit:
The chaos continues.. EU capitals are frustrated that they are still impacted by the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII.. Turkey is rightfully reluctant to serve as the quick fix for Europe without seeking compromises and guarantees.. EU heads of state cannot agree to disagree or agree with Turkey's requests, though they are in agreement over what they demand from Turkey.
As where things stay today, it is clear that Turkey has been able to secure promise of 3 billion euros more, doubling the initial promise. Yet, whether all EU states will follow up on their promises, how this money will be put together, when and how it will be transferred to Turkey, and what benchmarks EU will demand as a condition for their release and what control Turkey will have over its use is far from clear. Remarks by Turkish officials had signalled that a large portion of the funds would be used for schooling and health care expenses.
Then comes the promises given to Turkey on possibility of looking into visa liberalisation and further negotiation chapters being opened. While the latter seems to be a plausible possibility, particularly given the good will that is in the air over the Cyprus issue, the former is a promise EU can not deliver within the timelines requested by Turkey. In fact, even if Turkey was allowed to enter into union, it would possibly wait a further period for possibility of full freedom of movement. The Turkish government desperately needs a positive spin to sell this expensive agreement with the EU to a public that has honourably welcomed almost 3 million Syrians thus far, but is showing serious shifts in attitudes lately. EU is misleading the Turkish public with promises it cannot deliver, and a sudden public shift will cause Turkish gov to suspend all cooperation on the subject.
Neither NATO's involvement in patrolling the Aegean Sea, nor Turkey's agreement to accept deportees from Europe and host Syrians while they are being processed are ultimately going to bring down irregular migration to a level that can make populist sentiments in Europe happy. The situation in North, East and West Africa, as well as the Middle East and Afghanistan means that thousands will continue to risk their lives, seek alternative routes and attempt to make it to Europe.
EU has to look beyond this immediate influx while it is trying to secure a quick fix with Turkey. It needs to develop a genuine and unison neighbourhood policy, it needs to proactively seek to strengthen key refugee host countries in MENA, and regain moral credibility by relocating adequate number of refugees. This crisis cannot be defined as a refugee crisis. It is ultimately an EU political crisis, and it risks untangling the entire union, deconstructing its global standing and stripping off whatever self image it enjoyed as a beacon of human rights standards.
As for Turkey, its polarised domestic politics have seemed to largely framed the EU-Turkey talks vis a vis the narrative of 'EU selling out to Erdogan'. EU has been a vocal critic of AKP government, and remains so. It uses multiple forums to raise serious human rights deterioration in the country. It enjoys no renewed love towards AKP, or to Turkish EU membership, to that matter. Meanwhile, EU's desire to secure a costly agreement with a strong government that can do it on its own without the constituency pressure facing most EU governments seem to be lost to Turkish opposition figures. Turkey will pay a heavy price for the next few decades with this agreement. Neither EU's few billion euros, nor promises of an eschatological membership can take that away. Turkish opposition had to be much more vocal in demanding full transparency and public debate on what it is that Turkey is signing into.
A clear agreement might take time to finalise, which, for the weary EU observer, means bad news for a robust agreement as it will inevitably mean a watered-down final text that can get everyone's support.. For the optimist, it might be a chance to imagine a new approach to EU-Turkey relations and handling of this crisis. For the time being, however, pessimists might be right.