European leaders have made a series of high-level visits to Turkey’s imposing presidential palace and issued statements strongly emphasizing Turkey’s role and Europe’s own inability to manage the refugee crisis. Such moves, in combination with the victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey’s November 1 parliamentary election, have succeeded in boosting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s self-perception of grandeur.
There is little doubt that Turkey has borne a substantial burden in the Syrian refugee crisis and should be supported financially, together with Lebanon and Jordan. But the agreement reached by the EU and Turkey at a summit on November 29 makes no specific reference to access to the labor market or to primary and secondary education, which would make staying in Turkey more attractive for Syrian refugees. Nor does the agreement mention the creation of hot spots on Turkish territory or a readmission process for economic migrants.
The result will be much less progress in dealing with the refugee crisis than hoped or expected. Only the end of the Syrian conflict with a political solution involving Russia and moderate elements of the current Syrian regime will relieve the refugee pressure on Europe.
Furthermore, neither side has any illusions about real progress on Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. In view of recent developments regarding the rule of law and human rights in Turkey, the best both sides should aim for is closer cooperation on foreign and security policy—and then only if there is a clearer convergence between the two sides’ objectives.