The draft EU-Turkey Refugee Action Plan agreed in Brussels by EU leaders last week risks bringing shame on Europe, according to a leading British MEP responsible for Turkey's EU accession negotiations. Two million Syrian refugees are being treated as bargaining chips, with the result potentially being European complicity in rigging Turkey's 1 November elections, Richard Howitt MEP says. Turkey must not be allowed to 'buy' silence from Europe over intimidation of opponents and journalists, the British Labour Euro MP writes, in an article published today (Monday 19 October) by one of Europe's leading news services.
Richard Howitt MEP, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson for Socialists and Democrats, the second largest group in the European Parliament, writes:
"Is Europe's refugee crisis so distorting its political judgement that the European Union is entering in to what Turkey's own pro-Government newspapers have called a 'bloody exchange'?"
"In which other country would independent television channels be blocked, journalists arrested and opposition parties too frightened to hold campaign rallies in advance of an election - yet the European Union stay virtually silent in response?
"The view in the corridors in Brussels is that Erdogan feels he can 'turn on-and-off the taps' of refugee flows, effectively holding the European Union to ransom.
"And the charge is that a petrified European Union is acceding to the blackmail, and about to be hand over a pay-off of up to €3billion in response."
Citing the prediction from an often reliable government whistleblower before last weekend's deadly peace rally bombing, claiming that the governing AK Party itself would wage violence against political rallies, as part of an electoral strategy in advance of the elections, Richard Howitt MEP comments:
"Tell the families of the 99 dead, that Europe is negotiating a deal in which it pronounces Turkey to be a "safe" country, for the purposes of immigration, but not for its own population."
Richard Howitt MEP questions why there has been a "highly unusual" postponement of the eagerly anticipated publication of the annual 'progress report' on Turkey's EU accession prospects.
Warning that the European Union must not make an historic mistake in the 'cash for cooperation' deal, Richard Howitt MEP concludes: "Europe must be careful that it is not only being blackmailed, but being swindled too. "There are serious questions as whether Erdogan can deliver on his promises?
"If Erdogan loses the November elections and runs away, European inaction now will look shameful.
"If Erdogan wins the election using European endorsement and European money, that shame could last for a very long time indeed."