Which brings us to Erdoğan’s latest gambit. The many Syrian refugees wanting to go on to northwestern Europe provide him with a handy mechanism to blackmail the European Union: pay me huge amounts of money (€6 billion at latest count) and permit 80 million Turks to travel visa-free to your countries, or I will dump more unwelcome Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis, et al. on you.
|Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu speaks at a conference on immigration.|
So far, the ploy has worked. Led by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Europeans are succumbing to Erdoğan’s demands. But this may well be a Pyrrhic victory, hurting Erdoğan’s long-term interests. In the first place, forcing Europeans to pretend they are not being blackmailed and to welcome Turkey with clenched teeth, creates a foul mood, further reducing, if not killing off, Turkish chances for membership.
Second, Erdoğan’s game has prompted a profound and probably lasting shift in mood in Europe against accepting more immigrants from the Middle East – including Turks – as demonstrated by the poor showing of Merkel’s party in elections earlier this month.
This is just the start. In combination, these errors by Erdoğan point to more crises ahead. Gökhan Bacik, a professor at Ipek University in Ankara, notes that “Turkey is facing a multifaceted catastrophe,” the scale of which “is beyond Turkey’s capacity for digestion.” If Iran is today the Middle East’s greatest danger, Turkey is tomorrow’s.