Turkey revisited: a European foreign policy of migration

In a public debate, Almut Möller discussed with Gerald Knaus and Roderick Parks, European border management and migration.


Gerald Knaus, Founding Chairman, European Stability Initiative

Roderick Parkes, Senior Analyst, European Union Institute for Security Studies 

Chaired by

Almut Möller, Senior Policy Fellow and Head of ECFR Berlin


ECFR and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands were delighted to host on 6 October 2016 at the Netherlands Embassy the public debate:

Turkey revisited: a European foreign policy of migration

The refugee crisis that engulfed Europe during the greater part of 2015 continues to play an uninhibited role at the European Union´s foreign policy debate table. More recently, a special emphasis has been placed on working with Turkey, a key geopolitical player in stemming the flow of migrants. The regional warfare and the resulting instability in Syria continue with few signs of secession, simultaneously threatening spillover into neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. To make things even more complicated, Africa has become part of the equation, with increasing numbers jumping ship to flee their own fragmented governments, economic instability, and the growing presence of terrorism in the region. Europe´s already complex relationship with Turkey has been complicated by recent developments, including the coup attempt on July 15th during which Turkish counterparts deemed the Western response as insensitive.

In order to uphold and implement the EU-Turkey Deal, the discussants came up with the following policy recommendations:

To declare Turkey a safe third country is insufficient. Turkey needs to prioritize the implementation of the deal and visibly prepare infrastructure to deal with large number of refugees. Moreover, EU border guards are pointless as they won’t (and shouldn’t) push people back. Greece as well as Italy should be offered a template approach by caseworkers. Additionally, a coherent EU mission should be set up, with a mandate to determine who should be send back, and how to provide refugee protection. The European Commission will need to continue the dialogue with Turkey in a more streamlined fashion. At the moment there is no one person in the EC who is fully and only committed to this, and who is communicating constantly into all directions.

Internally, Europe is confronted with enormous challenges as well: the pending question at the onset of the refugee crisis –can Europe come together to form a unified front and work together towards a “European” solution to the migration crisis –has not only gone unanswered but has also become more complex. The crisis has opened new questions about the Union´s response to regional instability in the Middle East – to what extent will efforts spawn from unified action? Germany has emerged as the European leader in foreign policy concerns, but it unwillingly takes on the role of lone instigator and hopes for more cohesion in addressing the crises that stand at Europe´s borders. With heightened euro-scepticism across the Union, driven in part by new insurgent parties across member states as seen in the recent Brexit, will Germany be able to instigate a “European” solution? Will new political instruments and policy innovations within the EU, with Turkey, Syria, the Russian Federation, the Gulf countries, Afghanistan, and the Sahel region pave the way for renewed efforts in creating legitimate stability? How much room for argumentation is present in the idea of “stability,” the definition of which may differ depending on the strategic goals that are driving action?

Roderick Parks advised to rethink European border management and migration. The EU should reconsider the Schengen way of thinking about borders as technocratic, territorial management. Instead, borders should be thought as a geopolitical construction. The EU should not be ashamed of re-establishing border controls – the narrative is that controls reflect illiberalism, which is not the case necessarily. The success of Schengen – the depolitization of borders – hampers a European response to the migration crisis. 

In order to prevent “defensive re-bordering”, the EU should make sure that its external borders remain a filter rather than an impenetrable wall. Smart border technologies need to be harmonized and standardized in order for them to actually be useful. Also, a better internal coordination of Frontex and Europol is needed as well as a better coordination within international organizations, e.g. NATO and OSCE. The EU should move away from package deals and conditionality towards close partnerships in relations with third countries. 


For further reading:

People on the move – The new global (dis)order by Roderick Parkes
Migration – How CSDP can support by Sven Biscop and Jochen Rehrl