EU-Turkey deal – another brick in the wall?

Editorial by Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR Secretary General

Brussels is hosting another European summit on the migration and refugee issue. A much needed European solution may be concluded, but at a high price which is more than just the billions of euros to be paid to Turkey. Yes Turkey is undertaking a huge effort to shelter 2 million refugees, as Jordan and Lebanon are doing under even more difficult conditions. We have seen Syrian refugees in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beyrouth, we have seen the refugees in the Jordanian camps, we have seen the work done by our members, from demining along the border between Syria and Jordan to humanitarian assistance all along the Balkan route, which is why they ask: why isn’t Europe delivering a European solution? Why is it so difficult to save lives, ensure a minimum of human dignity and uphold international conventions and values?

It is a huge challenge to meet the most urgent needs and the medium and long term task of integration, especially at a time when European societies are moving further towards disintegration and polarisation and inequalities continue to rise. The fear factor is not only driving those who do not want to lose their jobs or their quality of life. The fear factor is also driving politicians who listen to those who shout the loudest, even though they do not represent the majority in their respective countries. Politicians also seem to be driven by the fear of a break away from the European Union or even the fear of losing elections. They chose to let fear shape their agenda instead of being inspired by those who do not ask, but act, who demine borders, work in refugee camps, accompany the migrants and refugees, help and protect the most vulnerable like women and children.

These people are coming to Europe because they are fleeing a war or conflict. It is a human right to seek dignity and decency. Like freedom of expression and association, fundamental rights are increasingly under threat in Turkey. The deal is likely to become another brick in the wall, 27 years after the fall of the Berlin wall and the iron curtain. Twenty seven years ago some thought this would be the end of history, or was it an opening? Now we prefer to close borders. As High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini said on Wednesday in the EESC “borders shall protect against enemies, not against migrants”. What we need is courage and determination, and not give way to populism. And we need (an) other hero(es): such as those volunteers and professionals engaging in social and humanitarian action under difficult conditions, those working for organisations like our members, or for CARITAS, or Diaconia, for Medecins sans Frontiers and similar movements! All of them would deserve a Silver Rose Award.