Thinking a lot recently about Karl Lueger, a successful politician in Vienna, one hundred and a few years ago. Weekend reading: an excellent book by Brigitte Haman, “Hitler’s Vienna”. On the crazy and dangerous ideas and political models emerging in the middle of a cosmopolitan metropolis in a complacent era.
What seems new in our politics today is not really new at all, facebok, twitter or other social media notwithstanding. Nor is there anything new in “post-truth” politics – when was “truth” important to nationalists, colonialists, decolonisers, or communists in the 20th century? If you do not have Haman’s book ready, have a look at the below description of one of the most respected democratic politicians in the late Habsburg empire. Then replace “Jew” with “Muslim” or “foreigner” in the text below, and you have a not so secret formula, which looks set to become the inspiration for political leaders in much of what was until yesterday the West … until it stops working.
It worked then, for Karl Lueger. He won elections. He managed to run a decent city administration. He also built a lot. His statue is still up in Vienna. But the consequences of this style of politics in the short and medium term were disastrous for his city, country and continent.
As will be the consequences this time, if this style of thinking, of politics without constraints, is not contained. Or, better put: defeated in elections. This is the only response that matters.
“Karl Lueger was an outstanding example of this new kind of politician: he attempted to get a feeling for the mood of “the people”; he like to hold speeches in dialect, took account of the intellectual level of his listeners, made complex issues simple and tried to entertain his public with humorous remarks.
He was especially successful when he attacked the supposed enemies of his listeners. He stoked antipathy to politicians with different points of view as well as national and religious minorities. His polemical attacks, sometimes extremely drastically formulated, were not directed towards reason but consciously appealed to emotions and instincts. Thus he understood how to use rousing speeches to win over the Viennese population to his cause, consciously invoking stereotypical images of alleged enemies and, in particular, making use of anti-Semitic prejudice. Every set back was reduced to a simple formula: “The Jews are to blame” and stirred up hatred with statements such as: “ We will prevent the oppression of Christians and a new Palestine replacing the ancient Austrian empire of Christians”.
In the process he activated the traditional Catholic anti-Semitism directed against “the people who killed God”. He combined it with anti-liberal and anti-capitalist elements and thus addressed the widespread prejudice against “money and stock market Jews”, “press Jews”, “ink Jews”, i.e. Jewish intellectuals and businessmen. Under his leadership the Christian Socialists regarded their main political task as the reduction of the “rapidly growing power of the Jews” and the reversal of their emancipation which had only taken place in 1867.”
Sometimes a speech really needs no further comment. Here is Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, speaking on 15 March 2016, the Hungarian National day. All I did is to highlight some passages in old. For the rest, please trust me: this is worth reading.
“Salutations to you, Hungarian freedom, on this the day you are born!”
Ladies and Gentlemen, Compatriots, Hungarians around the World,
With a cockade sewn by Júlia Szendrey pinned to his chest, a volume of poems in his pocket, and the still thrilling experience of the Revolution in his head, these are the words with which the poet Sándor Petőfi welcomed the fifteenth of March in his journal. Salutations to you, Hungarian freedom, on this the day you are born! And today also, one hundred and sixty-eight years later, it is with unfettered joy, the optimism of early spring, high hopes and an elevated spirit that across the Carpathian Basin we celebrate – from Beregszász to Szabadka, from Rimaszombat to Kézdivásárhely: every Hungarian with one heart, one soul and one will.
Just as then in the decisive battles of the Freedom Fight, now also Hungarian hearts are cheered by the fact that we have with us a Polish legion. I welcome the spirited successors of General Bem: we welcome the sons of the Polish nation. As always throughout our shared thousand-year history, now, too, we are standing by you in the battle you are fighting for your country’s freedom and independence. We are with you, and we send this message to Brussels: more respect to the Polish people, more respect to Poland! Greetings to you. It is a sign of the shared fate of Poland and Hungary that another glorious revolution of ours – that of 1956 – was born between the Bem Statue and Kossuth tér in Budapest. It rose up with the unstoppable force of our glorious ancestors, and by the evening it had dragged the Soviet generalissimo out of his boots.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
By nature, Hungarians stand up for what is right when the need arises. What is more, they fight for it if needs be, but do not seek out trouble for its own sake. They know that they can often achieve more through patience than through sabre-rattling. This is why those like us are rarely given to revolutions. We have only gone down that path twice in one hundred and seventy years. When we did follow that path, we had reason to do so: we felt that our lungs would burst if we could not breathe in freedom. We threw ourselves into it, and once we had started a revolution, we did so in style. Modern European history has preserved both Hungarian revolutions among the glorious memories of the world: two blazing stars, two national uprisings bursting forth in 1848 and 1956 from Hungarian aspirations and Hungarian interests. Glory to the heroes, honour to the brave. Chroniclers have also recorded the revolution of 1918–19, but the memories of that period are not preserved on the pages of glory; indeed, not only are those memories written on different pages, but they appear in a different volume altogether. The 1918–19 revolution can be found in the volume devoted to Bolshevik anti-Hungarian subversions launched in the service of foreign interests and foreign ambitions; it features under the heading “appalling examples of intellectual and political degeneracy”. Yes, we Hungarians have two revolutionary traditions: one leads from 1848, through 1956 and the fall of communism, all the way to the Fundamental Law and the current constitutional order; the bloodline of the other tradition leads from Jacobin European ancestors, through 1919, to communism after World War II and the Soviet era in Hungary. Life in Hungary today is a creation of the spiritual heirs and offspring of the ’48 and ’56 revolutions. Today, as then, the heartbeat of this revolutionary tradition moves and guides the nation’s political, economic and spiritual life: equality before the law, responsible government, a national bank, the sharing of burdens, respect for human dignity and the unification of the nation. Today, as then, the ideals of ’48 and ’56 are the pulse driving the life force of the nation, and the intellectual and spiritual blood flow of the Hungarian people. Let us give thanks that this may be so, let us give thanks that finally the Lord of History has led us onto this path. Soli Deo gloria!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Not even the uplifting mood of a celebration day can let us forget that the tradition of 1919, too, is still with us – though fortunately its pulse is just a faint flicker. Yet at times it can make quite a noise. But without a host animal, its days are numbered. It is in need of another delivery of aid from abroad in the form of a major intellectual and political infusion; unless it receives this, then after its leaves and branches have withered, its roots will also dry up in the Hungarian motherland’s soil, which is hostile to internationalism. And this is all well and good.
A decent person who raises their children and works hard to build the course of their life does not usually end up as a revolutionary. The right-thinking person who stands on their own two feet and has control over their future knows that upheavals and the sudden upending of the ordinary course of life rarely ends well. The person of goodwill who seeks a life of serene and peaceful progress knows that trying to take two steps at once leads to you tripping over your own legs, and instead of moving forward, you will land flat on your face. And yet these right-thinking people of goodwill, these upstanding citizens of Pest instantly rallied to the call of our revolutions, marching at the front, right behind the university students. They formed the backbone of the revolutions and freedom fights, and they were to pay with their own blood for the honour of the Hungarian people. Every revolution is like the people who make it. On the committee which oversaw order during the 15 March revolution, in the shadow of the colossal figures of Petőfi and Vasvári, we find the furrier Máté Gyurkovics, and the button-maker György Molnár. Our revolutions were led by respectable citizens, military officers, lawyers, writers, doctors, engineers, honest tradespeople, farmers and workers with a sense of national duty: Hungarians who embodied the nation’s best aspects, our homeland’s very best. Hungarian revolutionaries are not warriors for hare-brained ideologies, deranged utopias or demented, unsolicited plans for world happiness; in Pest you find no traces of the illusory visions of quack philosophers or the raging resentment of failed intellectuals. The revolutionaries of 1848 did not want to salvage stones from the ruins of absolutist oppression in order to build a temple to yet another tyranny; therefore the Hungarian revolution’s songs were not written in honour of the steel blade of the guillotine or the rope of the gallows. Our songs are not sung by lynch mobs or execution-thirsty crowds; the Pest revolution is not a hymn to chaos, revenge, or butchery. The 1848 Revolution is a solemn and dignified moment in our history, when the wounds of the glorious Hungarian nation opened once again. Springing from constitutional roots, it demanded the granting and return of the rights seized from and denied to the nation. It is exhilarating, but sober; ecstatic but practical; glorious, but temperate. It is Hungarian to the core.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Three weeks before his death in battle, in his last letter to János Arany, Sándor Petőfi asked the following question: “So what are you going to do?” When we, his modern descendants, read this, it is as if he is asking us the same question. So what are you going to do? How will you make use of your inheritance? Are the Hungarian people still worthy of their ancestors’ reputation? Do you know the law of the Hungarians of old – that whatever you do should not only be measured by its utility, but also by universal standards? This is because your deeds must pass the test not only here, but also in eternity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have our inheritance, the Hungarian people still exist, Buda still stands, we are who we were, and we shall be who we are. Our reputation travels far and wide; clever people and intelligent peoples acknowledge the Hungarians. We adhere to the ancient law, and also measure our deeds by universal standards. We teach our children that their horizon should be eternity. Whether we shall succeed, whether finally we see the building of a homeland which is free, independent, worthy and respected the world over – one which was raised high by our forebears from 1848, and for which they sacrificed their lives – we cannot yet know. We do know, however, that the current European constellation is an unstable one, and so we have some testing times ahead. The times in which we live press us with this question, which is like a hussar’s sabre held to our chest: “Shall we live in slavery or in freedom?” The destiny of the Hungarians has become intertwined with that of Europe’s nations, and has grown to be so much a part of the union that today not a single people – including the Hungarian people – can be free if Europe is not free. And today Europe is as fragile, weak and sickly as a flower being eaten away by a hidden worm. Today, one hundred and sixty-eight years after the great freedom fights of its peoples, Europe – our common home – is not free.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Europe is not free, because freedom begins with speaking the truth. In Europe today it is forbidden to speak the truth. A muzzle is a muzzle – even if it is made of silk. It is forbidden to say that today we are not witnessing the arrival of refugees, but a Europe being threatened by mass migration. It is forbidden to say that tens of millions are ready to set out in our direction. It is forbidden to say that immigration brings crime and terrorism to our countries. It is forbidden to say that the masses of people coming from different civilisations pose a threat to our way of life, our culture, our customs, and our Christian traditions. It is forbidden to say that, instead of integrating, those who arrived here earlier have built a world of their own, with their own laws and ideals, which is forcing apart the thousand-year-old structure of Europe. It is forbidden to say that this is not accidental and not a chain of unintentional consequences, but a planned, orchestrated campaign, a mass of people directed towards us. It is forbidden to say that in Brussels they are constructing schemes to transport foreigners here as quickly as possible and to settle them here among us. It is forbidden to say that the purpose of settling these people here is to redraw the religious and cultural map of Europe and to reconfigure its ethnic foundations, thereby eliminating nation states, which are the last obstacle to the international movement. It is forbidden to say that Brussels is stealthily devouring ever more slices of our national sovereignty, and that in Brussels today many are working on a plan for a United States of Europe, for which no one has ever given authorisation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today’s enemies of freedom are cut from a different cloth than the royal and imperial rulers of old, or those who ran the Soviet system; they use a different set of tools to force us into submission. Today they do not imprison us, they do not transport us to camps, and they do not send in tanks to occupy countries loyal to freedom. Today the international media’s artillery bombardments, denunciations, threats and blackmail are enough – or rather have been enough so far. The peoples of Europe are slowly awakening, they are regrouping, and will soon regain ground. Europe’s beams laid on the suppression of truth are creaking and cracking. The peoples of Europe may have finally understood that their future is at stake: not only are their prosperity, their comfort and their jobs at stake, but their very security and the peaceful order of their lives are in danger. The peoples of Europe, who have been slumbering in abundance and prosperity, have finally understood that the principles of life upon which we built Europe are in mortal danger. Europe is a community of Christian, free and independent nations; it is the equality of men and women, fair competition and solidarity, pride and humility, justice and mercy.
This danger is not now threatening us as wars and natural disasters do, which take the ground from under our feet in an instant. Mass migration is like a slow and steady current of water which washes away the shore. It appears in the guise of humanitarian action, but its true nature is the occupation of territory; and their gain in territory is our loss of territory. Hordes of implacable human rights warriors feel an unquenchable desire to lecture and accuse us. It is claimed that we are xenophobic and hostile, but the truth is that the history of our nation is also one of inclusion and the intertwining of cultures. Those who have sought to come here as new family members, as allies or as displaced persons fearing for their lives have been let in to make a new home for themselves. But those who have come here with the intention of changing our country and shaping our nation in their own image, those who have come with violence and against our will, have always been met with resistance.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At first, they are only talking about a few hundred, a thousand or two thousand relocated people. But not a single responsible European leader would dare to swear under oath that this couple of thousand will not eventually increase to tens or hundreds of thousands. If we want to stop this mass migration, we must first of all curb Brussels. The main danger to Europe’s future does not come from those who want to come here, but from Brussels’ fanatics of internationalism. We cannot allow Brussels to place itself above the law. We shall not allow it to force upon us the bitter fruit of its cosmopolitan immigration policy. We shall not import to Hungary crime, terrorism, homophobia and synagogue-burning anti-Semitism. There shall be no urban districts beyond the reach of the law, there shall be no mass disorder or immigrant riots here, and there shall be no gangs hunting down our women and daughters. We shall not allow others to tell us whom we can let into our home and country, whom we will live alongside, and whom we will share our country with. We know how these things go. First we allow them to tell us whom we must take in, then they force us to serve foreigners in our country. In the end we find ourselves being told to pack up and leave our own land. Therefore we reject the forced resettlement scheme, and we shall tolerate neither blackmail, nor threats.
The time has come to ring the warning bell. The time has come for opposition and resistance. The time has come to gather allies to us. The time has come to raise the flag of proud nations. The time has come to prevent the destruction of Europe, and to save the future of Europe. To this end, regardless of party affiliation, we call on every citizen of Hungary to unite, and we call on every European nation to unite. The leaders and citizens of Europe must no longer live in two separate worlds. We must restore the unity of Europe. We the peoples of Europe cannot be free individually if we are not free together. If we unite our forces, we shall succeed; if we pull in different directions, we shall fail. Together we are strength, disunited we are weakness. Either together, or not at all – today this is the law.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 1848 it was written in the book of fate that nothing could be done against the Habsburg Empire. If then we had resigned ourselves to that outcome, our fate would have been sealed and the German sea would have swallowed up the Hungarians. In 1956 it was written in the book of fate that we were to remain an occupied and sovietised country until patriotism was extinguished in the very last Hungarian. If then we had resigned ourselves to that outcome, our fate would have been sealed, and the Soviet sea would have swallowed up the Hungarians. Today it is written in the book of fate that hidden, faceless world powers will eliminate everything that is unique, autonomous, age-old and national. They will blend cultures, religions and populations, until our many-faceted and proud Europe will finally become bloodless and docile. And if we resign ourselves to this outcome, our fate will be sealed, and we will be swallowed up in the enormous belly of the United States of Europe. The task which awaits the Hungarian people, the nations of Central Europe and the other European nations which have not yet lost all common sense is to defeat, rewrite and transform the fate intended for us. We Hungarians and Poles know how to do this. We have been taught that only if you are brave enough do you look danger in the face. We must therefore drag the ancient virtue of courage out from under the silt of oblivion. First of all we must put steel in our spines, and we must clearly answer the foremost, the single most important question determining our fate with a voice so loud so that it can be heard far and wide. The question upon which the future of Europe stands or falls is this: “Shall we live in slavery or in freedom?” That is the question – give your answer!
Ein Artikel in der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung vom 27 September 2016 (Brüssel: Vertrag mit Türkei bewährt sich, FAZ, Seite 2, Dienstag) zeigt zweierlei: die Europäische Kommission erkennt nicht, was notwendig ist, um das EU-Türkei Abkommen umzusetzen. Sie versäumt es, Politiker und die Öffentlichkeit aufzurütteln. Stattdessen verschleiert sie Probleme. Das ist unverantwortlich und gefährlich. Wenn nichts passiert, könnte das Abkommen in den nächsten Wochen in sich zusammenbrechen. In diesem kurzen Überblick stehen die Aussagen der Kommission, die in dem Artikel zitiert werden, den tatsächlichen Entwicklungen gegenüber. Ein aufmerksamer Leser kann von selbst erkennen, dass hier vieles nicht zusammenpasst:
Die Zahl der Flüchtlinge, die in der Ägäis ankommen
Der Artikel beginnt optimistisch:
„Das vor sechs Monaten zwischen der EU und der Türkei vereinbarte Flüchtlingsabkommen scheint sich insgesamt zu bewähren. Zu dieser positiven Einschätzung ist die Europäische Kommission in einer Bilanz gelangt. ‚Ich habe keine großen Befürchtungen, dass das Abkommen zwischen der EU und der Türkei scheitert. Es steht für beide Seiten zu viel auf dem Spiel’, sagte ein mit dem Dossier betrauter Beamter am Montag.“
Dafür bietet der ungenannte Beamte folgende Argumente:
„Die Zahl der über die Ägäis aus der Türkei auf die griechischen Inseln gelangenden Flüchtlinge sei mit zuletzt durchschnittlich hundert am Tag auf einem ‚historisch niedrigen Stand’.“
Ankunft von Flüchtlingen aus der Türkei auf griechischen Inseln (2016)
Täglicher Durchschnitt Januar
Täglicher Durchschnitt Februar
Täglicher Durchschnitt 1-20 März
Täglicher Durchschnitt 21-31 März
Täglicher Durchschnitt April
Täglicher Durchschnitt Mai
Täglicher Durchschnitt Juni
Täglicher Durchschnitt Juli
Täglicher Durchschnitt August
Die Zahl der ankommenden Flüchtlinge lag im August bei durchschnittlich 111 am Tag. Das sind doppelt so viel wie im Mai oder Juni. Dieser Trend ist besorgniserregend. Es ist auch kein „historisch niedriger Stand“: auf ein Jahr umgelegt bedeuten 111 Ankommende am Tag insgesamt etwa 40,000 Ankommende im Jahr.
Um das einzuordnen hilft es, sich die Gesamtzahl ALLER, die die EU Außengrenzen in den letzten Jahren überquert haben, vor Augen zu halten: das waren von 2009 bis 2013 jährlich durchschnittlich 110,000 an ALLEN EU Außengrenzen. 40,000 im Jahr nur in der Ägäis wären eine historisch hohe Zahl, die nur verglichen mit dem Ausnahmejahr 2015 (als über 800,000 ankamen) „niedrig“ erscheinen mag. Dass der negative Trend der letzten Wochen nicht einmal erwähnt wird ist auch merkwürdig.
Die Zahl jener, die von den Inseln in die Türkei zurückgeschickt werden
„Positiv wird in der Kommission herausgestellt, dass seit Inkrafttreten des Abkommens von den griechischen Inseln bis zum Montag insgesamt 578 Flüchtlinge in die Türkei zurückgeschickt worden seien. Allein am Montag brachte ein Schiff 70 Migranten von der Insel Lesbos in die Türkei Dikili zurück.“
Das bedeutet, dass seit Inkrafttreten des Abkommens im Durchschnitt pro Monat weniger als 100 Flüchtlinge in die Türkei zurückgeschickt wurden – weniger als derzeit täglich auf den Inseln ankommen.
Was die Kommission nicht erklärt, ist erneut der tatsächliche Trend. Der sieht nämlich so aus: auch im September wurden insgesamt nur 90 Leute zurückgebracht. Im August waren es 16, im Juli niemand, im Juni 21 und im Mai 55. Die allermeisten wurden zu Beginn des Abkommens, im April (386), zurückgebracht. In der ersten Oktoberwoche ist noch einmal ein Transfer von 75 Menschen geplant. Doch danach ist es wieder unklar aus wie es weitergeht. Von einer Trendwende kann derzeit keine Rede sein.
Transfer von Migranten aus Griechenland in die Türkei bis 27 September 2016
Die Kommission erklärt übrigens selbst, warum es auch in den nächsten Monaten nur sehr wenige Rückführungen geben wird:
„Derzeit gibt es mit jeweils drei Mitgliedern besetzte Berufungsgremien, die derzeit monatlich nur 200 Fälle zum Abschluss bringen können Zur Bewältigung dieses ‚Flaschenhalses’ müssten die Verfahren gestrafft, mehr Personal müsse eingestellt werden. Ziel sei es, die Dauer des Prüfverfahrens auf zwei bis drei Wochen zu begrenzen.”
Das bedeutet: egal wie viele Fälle die Asylbehörde in erster Instanz derzeit bearbeitet (und es sind nicht viele – siehe weiter unten), die erwartete Zahl derjenigen, die von der zweiten Instanz monatlich „zum Abschluss“ gebracht wird, liegt bei „nur 200“ … und das bedeutet noch nicht, dass alle 200 auch in die Türkei zurückgebracht werden.
Derzeit gibt es noch keine Erfahrung mit den Berufungsgremien, aber selbst wenn ALLE 200 Fälle pro Monat in einem Rückführungsentscheid in die Türkei enden, wären das weniger als derzeit in ZWEI TAGEN auf die Inseln kommen.
Die kleine griechische Asylbehörde ist der Aufgabe auf den Inseln nicht gewachsen.
„In der EU-Behörde wird zudem erwartet, dass auch die Zahl der ‚Rückführungen’ von Flüchtlingen aus Griechenland in die Türkei in Kürze deutlich zunehmen wird. Inzwischen sei in Griechenland über die Zulässigkeit von rund 3500 Asylanträgen – davon gut 3000 von syrischen Flüchtlingen – entschieden worden. Dies entspricht der im März gegebenen Zusage, Asylanträge im Schnellverfahren zu prüfen.“
Doch selbst wenn 3,500 Anträge in sechs Monaten entschieden wurden, dann sind das weniger als 600 im Monat. Derzeit kommen PRO WOCHE mehr Flüchtlinge und Migranten auf den Inseln an.
Man kann es drehen wie man will: sechs Monate nach Inkrafttreten des Abkommens haben weder die erste Instanz der Asylbehörde, noch die Berufungskommissionen, noch die – immer noch dramatisch unterbesetzte – EASO Mission auch nur ansatzweise die Ressourcen, die notwendig wären zu verhindern, dass die Schere zwischen der Zahl der Ankommenden und der Zahl der in die Türkei zurückgeführten nicht weiter aufgeht.
Die letzte der zitierten Aussagen der Kommission wirkt vor diesem Hintergrund bemerkenswert:
„Günstig habe sich zuletzt die Versorgungslage für die Flüchtlinge entwickelt.“
Dass sich die „Versorgungslage“ auf den Inseln günstig entwickelt haben soll, nachdem das wichtigste Lager Moria auf Lesbos erst vor kurzem brannte, während die Differenz zwischen Bedarf und Resourcen immer grösser wird, und obwohl Proteste der Bevölkerung auf den Inseln immer mehr zunehmen, ist schwer zu glauben. Es widerspricht auch dem, was Journalisten und Menschenrechtsorganisationen von den Inseln berichten. Abgesehen davon ist jedem Laien klar was es bedeutet, wenn
sich heute doppelt so viele Menschen auf den Inseln befinden als Kapazitäten vorhanden sind, sie gut zu versorgen (UNHCR);
jeden Tag so viele Menschen auf den Inseln ankommen wie durchschnittlich im Monat in die Türkei gebracht werden;
der Trend zeigt, dass die Zahl der Ankommenden steigt, die Effizienz der Behörden aber seit Monaten stagniert.
All das wirft die Frage auf: Wie kann eine Organisation, die bestehende Probleme und alarmierende Trends nicht wahrnimmt, diese Probleme lösen? Und was macht die Europäische Kommission, wenn in wenigen Wochen die griechischen Behörden das Handtuch werfen müssen und tausende von den Inseln wegbringen, und damit den Schlepper in der Türkei signalisieren, dass das ganze Abkommen einzustürzen beginnt?
Kapazität und Auslastung in den Lagern auf den griechischen Inseln, 13. September 2016
A few thoughts, written one year ago in autumn in the sunny garden of the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow, where I was then a visiting fellow.
The dark clouds of that moment – the sense of fragility of our institutions and norms and moral emotions – are very much more obvious today. Then was the moment of Willkommenskultur in Germany and Austria, a generous, emotional, fragile sense of possibility, that was real – perhaps my forebodings came from observing it from Russia, with sympathy and concern.
27 September 2015 (Facebook)
(Sonntag, im Garten des Museums für Moderne Kunst in Moskau)
Wir sollte uns keinen Illusionen hingeben.
Das Recht auf Asyl – all die Konventionen, auf die wir uns heute noch berufen können, in Kommentaren oder vor Gerichten – verschwindet in dem Moment, in dem Mehrheiten das wollen. Oder in dem die Minderheiten, die das wollen strategischer vorgehen als die Verteidiger der Menschenrechte.
Das hat Orban gerade wieder gezeigt, unbestraft; seine “Asylverfahren” an der Grenze sind eine Farce, doch seine Zustimmung steigt.
Das zeigen uns seit Jahren andere Mitglieder des Europarates. Azerbaijan war Vorsitzender des Europarates, verhaftete alle Menschenrechtsaktivisten … wo war die Reaktion? (jenseits der Menschenrechtsorganisationen, die das Regime einfach ignoriert). Wo war der Europäische Menschenrechtsgerichtshof? Abgemeldet, vom Regime ignoriert, vollkommen ungestraft. Heute, wo wir ihn brauchen, ist der Europarat eine unglaubwürdige Institution. Wir haben diese Entwicklung ignoriert, weil viele dachten, das betrifft nur Autokraten im fernen Osten Europas. Das war ein großer Fehler. Einer von vielen der die Menschenrechte in Europa in Gefahr bringt.
Jede, auch die grundlegendste, Menschenrechtsnorm, ist ständig in Gefahr sich im Nichts aufzulösen, wenn der Rückhalt schwindet. (Die Folter wurde in Russland Anfang der 19 Jahrhunderts von einem russischen Zaren abgeschafft; wir wissen was später passierte …).
Orban weiß das: er hat das Ende des Kommunismus, mit allen seinen Normen, erlebt. Er weiß, dass alles Menschliche vergänglich ist. Nun erwartet er, dass dies auch für das europäische Bekenntnis zu Asyl gilt, wenn er nur die Angst vor Muslimen instrumentalisieren kann.
Wenn die Briten über einen Austritt aus dem Menschenrechtsgerichtshof laut nachdenken, ja, eine Regierungspartei damit Wahlkampf macht, und gewinnt, warum dann nicht Ungarn? Warum nicht Österreich, unter einem Bundeskanzler Strache? Was bleibt dann? Wenn mehr Regierungen wie Orban denken, wer verteidigt dann “europäische” Standards? Diese werden dann einfach umdefiniert. Darauf setzt er. Daran arbeitet er.
Diese Krise sieht er als eine große Gelegenheit. Und die, die nicht seiner Meinung sind – wie mächtig auch ihre Positionen, ob nun Bundeskanzlerin in Berlin oder Präsident der Kommission in Brüssel – setzen ihm derzeit nichts entgegen: keine Strategie, nur Hilflosigkeit. Oder Ärger. Das aber stört ihn nicht; im Gegenteil.
Die Situation ist brandgefährlich. Das “Ende der Scham”, der Moment in dem Menschenrechte grundsätzlich in Frage gestellt werden, sinnentleert werden, umdefiniert werden, betrifft längst nicht nur Azerbaijan oder Russland.
Das Fundament auf dem unsere Grundrechte stehen kann zerbrechen. Das ist schon oft geschehen in der europäischen Geschichte. Darum geht es in diesem Ringen heute.
Das Interview ist hier: Spiegel Spezial “Brennpunkt Türkei” – 1/2016
Spiegel: Die Türkei ist extrem enttäuscht darüber, dass kein europäischer Spitzenpolitiker das Land nach dem Putschversuch Mitte Juli besucht hat. Zurecht?
Knaus: Ja. Wenn der deutsche oder der französische oder der italienische Außenminister, am besten alle drei gemeinsam, in den Tagen nach dem Putsch gekommen wären, das Parlament besucht hätten, ins Spital gegangen wären, etwa den türkischen Botschafter in Deutschland, Avni Karslıoğlu, der ja von den Putschisten verletzt wurde, besucht hätten – dann wäre das ein wichtiges Signal der Unterstützung für die Demokratie gewesen. Dann wären auch Ratschläge, bei der Bewältigung der Putschfolgen nicht über das Ziel hinauszuschießen, heute glaubwürdiger. Das Misstrauen der Türkei, das es schon nach der schwachen europäischen Reaktion auf den Militärputsch in Ägypten gab, hat sich durch die Abwesenheit von hochrangigen Besuchern aus Europa noch verstärkt. Und viele Türken in allen politischen Lagern vermuten, das Ausland habe entweder auf den Erfolg der Putschisten gehofft, oder sie vielleicht sogar unterstützt. Da dies bei Putschen in der Vergangenheit – 1960, 1980 – tatsächlich der Fall war, fallen solche Theorien in der Türkei auf fruchtbaren Boden.
SPIEGEL: Was sollte Europa jetzt tun?
Knaus: Die EU sollte unbedingt an der Position festhalten, dass eine rechtsstaatliche Türkei ein sehr wichtiger Partner wäre. Sie sollte aber auch klare rote Linie ziehen die für alle Beitrittskandidaten gelten – das hat Brüssel bei der Todesstrafe gemacht, und es sollte auch für systematische Folter gelten, die man in keinem Europaratsmitglied tolerieren darf. Wir sollten nicht sagen, es ist hoffnungslos, wir geben auf, oder uns gar der Illusion hingeben, man könnte a la Trump, auf dem Balkan eine Mauer bauen und hinter der fänden in der Türkei dann Dinge statt, um die man sich nicht kümmern müsste. Gleichzeitig kann man den Beitrittsprozess, so wie er jetzt strukturiert ist, auch nicht einfach weiterführen ohne Änderungen. Verhandlungskapitel öffnen, ohne dass irgendetwas passiert, nährt nur Zynismus, in der EU und in der Türkei. Die EU müsste den Zustand der Justiz, und konkrete Prozessbeobachtungen, in das Zentrum ihrer Arbeit stellen. Denn was die Türkei am meisten braucht, ist ein Ausweg aus einer Welt des totalen Misstrauens, wo jeder immer nur einen Schritt vom Gefängnis entfernt ist.
SPIEGEL: Der österreichische Bundeskanzler hat den Abbruch der Beitrittsverhandlungen gefordert. War das ein Fehler?
Knaus: In diesem Moment auf jeden Fall. Erstens gibt es dafür in der EU keine Unterstützung, aus vielen guten Gründen. Man zweitens sollte man den Menschen in der Türkei, die sich weiterhin für Rechtsstaatlichkeit und Menschenrechte einsetzen, zeigen, dass die EU nach wie vor daran interessiert ist was dort passiert.
SPIEGEL: Kann das Flüchtlingsabkommen zwischen EU und Türkei angesichts der politischen Krise noch aufrechterhalten werden?
Knaus: Es gibt in Ankara weiterhin den Willen, daran festzuhalten, allerdings ist es schwieriger geworden, für beide Seiten. In der Türkei fragt man sich, wie die EU in dieser Situation eine Veränderung des Antiterrorgesetzes fordern kann. Und in der EU fragt man sich, wie man in dieser Situation die Visa-Freiheit einführen kann. Das wurde leider zu einer Frage der Würde stilisiert, als ob die EU ihre Werte verraten würde, wenn die Türkei nur 70 von 72 Forderungen erfüllt, die die EU am Beginn der Verhandlungen aufstellte. Es geht hier um Verhandlungen, wo beide Seiten Interessen haben. Als Serbien oder Mazedonien Visafreiheit erhielten stellte die EU nur 45 Bedingungen. Vor allem aber: wem würde es nützen, wenn man jetzt die Visa-Liberalisierung vom Tisch nähme, dann die Türkei das Rücknahmeabkommen aufkündigt und dann das Flüchtlingsabkommen scheitert? Würde das der EU und ihrem Einfluss in der Türkei helfen, oder Menschenrechtsaktivisten dort? Was bedeutet es für Griechenland und Bulgarien? Bei einem Scheitern verlieren alle. Das ist keine kluge Politik.
SPIEGEL: Erdoğan hat mehrmals damit gedroht, das Flüchtlingsabkommen platzen zu lassen, falls die Visa-Freiheit nicht bis Oktober kommt. Wie glaubhaft ist diese Drohung?
Knaus: Das Problem ist, dass in der EU missverstanden wird, was wir von der Türkei im Gegenzug für die Visaliberalisierung wirklich verlangen sollten. Damit das Flüchtlingsabkommen funktioniert, muss die Türkei zu einem nachweisbar sicheren Drittstaat werden für all jene, die jetzt auf den griechischen Inseln festsitzen. Wir brauchen nicht nur die erklärte Bereitschaft der Türkei, jene zurückzunehmen, die die Griechen schicken. Ankara muss auch klarstellen, dass dort, wo diese Flüchtlinge hingebracht werden, glaubwürdige Asylprozesse mit qualifizierten Asylbeamten, mit Übersetzern und mit transparenten Entscheiden und fairen Bedingungen existieren. Wenn das nicht klappt, wird Griechenland nie einen Asylantragsteller zurückschicken können. Dann verwandelt sich das Abkommen von selbst vom Merkel-Plan in einen Orbán-Plan, wo nur ein Element übrigbliebe, nämlich das unbegrenzte Festhalten von Flüchtlingen auf den griechischen Inseln. Das ginge aber höchstens noch ein paar Wochen gut. Man braucht Anstrengungen in der Türkei etwas aufzubauen, was auch in manchen EU-Mitgliedsländern nicht existiert, nämlich schnelle und glaubhafte Asylverfahren. Das muss sofort passieren. Man sollte der Türkei durchaus Bedingungen stellen, und diese mit der Visa-Liberalisierung verknüpfen, es müssten nur die richtigen sein.
SPIEGEL: Bislang wurden auch, anders als versprochen, so gut wie keine Flüchtlingen aus der Türkei nach Europa umgesiedelt. Warum nicht?
Knaus: Die EU und die Türkei sollten anerkennen, dass in den letzten Monaten die Zahl der Ankommenden in der Ägäis so stark zurückgegangen ist, dass man mit der freiwilligen Umsiedlung von Flüchtlingen jetzt beginnen müsste. Und dass die erste Phase, in der man das unselige Austauschprogramm hatte, wo für jeden zurückgeschickten Syrer ein Syrer aufgenommen werden sollte, beendet ist. Wenn man allerdings dazu übergehen will, eine größere Zahl von Flüchtlingen umzusiedeln, dann zeigt sich, dass die Verwaltungen auch in den bestorganisierten Ländern gar nicht drauf eingestellt sind. Auch nicht in der Türkei.
SPIEGEL: Man müsste diese Verwaltungen also erst aufbauen?
Knaus: Genau. Wenn die EU 100 000 Leute oder mehr im nächsten Jahr aus der Türkei umsiedeln will, dann muss das jemand organisieren. Denn man muss die Identität der Leute feststellen, Sicherheitsüberprüfungen machen und glaubwürdig zeigen, dass man bereit ist, die Leute aufzunehmen. Wenn man diesen Apparat nicht aufbaut, dann zeigt man, dass dieses Versprechen nicht ernst gemeint ist. Dabei gibt ja sicherlich zehntausende Flüchtlinge allein in der Türkei, die als Verwandte von bereits in Europa lebenden Asylantragstellern oder Flüchtlingen eine enorme Motivation und auch das Recht haben, einen Weg zu ihren Angehörigen zu finden, der nicht über die Ägäis oder über Schlepper führt.
SPIEGEL: Die griechische Regierung sagt, Europa brauche in der Flüchtlingskrise einen Plan B. Wie könnte der aussehen?
Knaus: Es gibt ja bereits eine Art Plan B, der bei immer mehr europäischen Regierungen auf Sympathie stößt, der allerdings um vieles aufwendiger, unsicherer und teurer wäre als das bestehende Abkommen umzusetzen. Davor warnt auch UNHCR eindringlich. Es ist der alte Plan von Viktor Orbán: eine australische Lösung, die darauf setzt, dass Flüchtlinge die EU zwar erreichen können, aber dann dort festgehalten werden, ähnlich wie das Australien auf der Pazifik-Insel Nauru macht. Der österreichische Aussenminister hat in den vergangenen Wochen immer wieder davon gesprochen, dass man von der australischen Erfahrung lernen könne, er hat allerdings nicht gesagt, ob das dann noch mit der Flüchtlingskonvention in Einklang gebracht werden muss. Oder wo diese Insel ist.
SPIEGEL: Das wäre dann ganz Griechenland, inklusive des Festlands.
Knaus: Ja. Die EU würde darauf setzen, dass die Bedingungen in Griechenland so schlecht wären, dass die Leute aus eigenem Interesse in der Türkei oder in Afghanistan blieben. Um das zu verstärken, würden noch die Grenzen auf dem Balkan militarisiert. Statt der Türkei ist die EU dann von Mazedonien und Serbien abhängig. Diese Entwicklung wird eintreten, wenn man sich vom EU-Türkei-Plan verabschieden sollte. Die Belastungen wären nicht nur für Griechenland, sondern für ganz Europa immens und in ihren Konsequenzen unüberschaubar.
In recent days German media reported on a dispute between Turkey and EU countries concerning the resettlement of Syrian refugees. Spiegel Online, ARD and others explained that Turkey proposed to the EU mainly “vulnerable cases” for resettlement, while hindering academics or Syrians with qualifications from leaving. The evidence is anecdotal, but it made headlines (It was also on German television last night.) In fact the story appears as a smokescreen for a real problem. And the crucial information missing in most of these reports is the number of people resettled from Turkey since the EU-Turkey agreement entered into force two months ago: 177.
The EU-Turkey agreement from March 2016 has a central promise: “In order to break the business model of the smugglers and to offer migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk, the EU and Turkey today decided to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU.” And yet, it is impossible to “offer an alternative” by resettling less than 100 refugees a month.
A little history is useful. On 4 December sherpas of a Coalition of Willing EU member states met in Brussels to discuss a proposal by the European Commission which asked how a resettlement scheme might be “effectively designed”. It suggested that its aim should be:
“expedited resettlement scheme or humanitarian admission that does not take longer than 3-6 months from the submission of the resettlement proposal from UNHCR to the Member state authorities to the physical transfer of the person concerned.”
This made fast resettlement impossible. At the time ESI proposed to set up a system starting from the assumption that the EU was in fact interested in resettling significant numbers of people, since this was key to making the EU-Turkey agreement work:
“The challenge is to find a quick way to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey to EU MS. The quickest way is to leave out all unnecessary intermediaries.”
We pointed to existing programs for lessons:
“When Germany resettled 20,000 Syrian refugees from countries neighbouring Syria as well as Egypt between 2013 and this year under its Humanitarian Resettlement Programme for Syrian refugees (HAP – Humanitäres Aufnahmeprogramm), it chose for the first contingent of 5,000 refugees the following criteria: “Firstly particularly vulnerable refugees, secondly refugees with a link to Germany, and thirdly refugees with special qualifications that could be useful for Syria’s reconstruction.”“
That German programme was less ambitious than what is needed now in terms of numbers, but the criteria are interesting: and with any larger numbers resettled there should be no conflict between these criteria. An EU protocol on how to implement the 1:1 scheme from 27 April 2016 gave the following selection criteria:
“women and girls at risk; survivors of violence and/or torture; refugees with legal and/or physical protection needs; refugees with medical needs or disabilities; children and adolescents at risk; and/or Members of the nuclear family of a person legally resident in a Participating State”
In this light, where is the scandal that Spiegel Online suggests? Is the problem not rather that each refugee is inspected and bargained over, like cattle on a cattle market, which makes substantial resettlement impossible? The Commission complained in its most recent report that some EU member states pick whom they want to take from Greece, as in the case of unaccompanied minors (whom they do not want):
“In line with the Council Decisions on relocation, Member States should prioritise the relocation of unaccompanied minors arriving in the EU. Since 12 April, no unaccompanied minor has been relocated.”
Unfortunately, relocation has been a failure of process: instead of 66,000 people relocated from Greece, as foreseen, the total so far stands at 909, in a process that started in July 2015. Now resettlement risks becoming a failure of process too.
ESI recommended a daily target of 900 resettlements some months ago. For this, processes would have to be streamlined. Do refugees pose security threats? Are they vulnerable, or families with children? Do they have relatives in the EU? Whether they have specific qualifications should not even be a consideration.
For this reason the media reporting diverts attention from the real problem: the central promise of the EU-Turkey deal – “creating legal routes to the EU for refugees” – is not being kept. 177 resettlements is a shockingly low number for two months. The key policy question should be when/if the EU will announce that it is preparing to act in accordance with provision four of the agreement. This stated:
“Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or at least have been substantially and sustainably reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated. EU Member States will contribute on a voluntary basis to this scheme.”
The numbers crossing have fallen dramatically and have remained low. The EU and Turkey should therefore declare the 1:1 exchange phase to be over. And the EU should radically review and change its guidelines and practices for both resettlement and relocation.
An internal document adopted in April 2016, setting out the “Implementation of the EU-Turkey 1:1 scheme” refered to a “Fast-track Standard Operating Procedures”, which is everything but fast. Its design precludes the resettlement of tens of thousands of people within the foreseeable future. It is failure by design.
This puts reports on the “haggling over Syrian academics” in context. The real news is not that the EU and Turkey do not agree on who should be resettled, but that a resettlement process has been designed which makes serious resettlement almost impossible and which – with 177 people resettled in more than two months – has not actually begun yet.
On April 16 the Dutch daily paper De Volkskrant published a long article on the genesis of the EU-Turkey agreement, as seen from The Hague and Brussels. If you are interested, here is an unofficial translation.
Volkskrant, 16 April 2016
– unofficial translation by ESI –
A mysterious word, deadlines, heated arguments, secret meetings and Turkish pizzas at midnight. The EU-Turkey refugee deal was hard-fought, with Prime Minister Rutte on the frontline. “Hand in hand jumping off the cliff.” A reconstruction.
By Marc Peeperkorn
It is already dark on Friday, 18 March, when Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves a meeting in the colossal Brussels Justus Lipsius building. For two days, he has cautiously negotiated with his EU colleagues to win a pioneering refugee agreement with Turkey. In an agreement where Dutch influence weighs heavily, Rutte plays a leading role in front of and behind the scenes. “Do you realize that in three months’ time we have fundamentally changed the European asylum policy?” says an aide accompanying the Prime Minister to his car. Rutte looks at him grinning: “Well done!” Energetically he steps into the grey-brown BMW, on his way to The Hague.
This is a revolutionary deal, both supporters and opponents acknowledge this. It was born out of hard political and humanitarian realities: 2016 could and should not be a repetition of the traumatic 2015. Another 850 thousand refugees transiting through the Greek islands to the rest of Europe; again many hundreds of men, women and children drowning in the short stretch of a few nautical miles between Turkey and the islands; even more border controls, fences, protests and tent camps: leaders cannot deal with all of this. Let alone their parliaments, their voters and the EU.
What will cause problems eventually are Europe’s open borders and the lip service that member states pay to the already feeble return schemes for migrants from distant countries. The Turkey-EU action plan to stem the flow of refugees, agreed at end of November was filled with intentions that brought no results. “The migrants knew: today in Lesvos, tomorrow in Berlin,” as an EU official described the chaos at the end of the year.
One word: “Readmission”. Rutte’s role in the agreement likely starts changing on Thursday, 17 December 2015. European leaders are, again, in the Justus Lipsius building and discuss again the migration crisis. Just before dinner they put the finishing touches to the final declaration. “I want only one word to be added to the text,” says Rutte. His colleagues are relieved, as Rutte is known to check the final conclusions line by line. Thus the word “readmission” lands in the text: not deportation, return or other non-binding terms, but a term that means: migrants who are not entitled to asylum must be “taken back”.
The Dutch delegation’s chamber gives out a suppressed cheer. “The hook that we wanted was put in the wall,” says one person involved. “The rest of the leaders didn’t notice anything. Our action was totally under the radar, also for Angela Merkel.”
That Rutte was prepared is due to PvdA leader Diederik Samsom. At the beginning of December he visited the Turkish town of Izmir, where in the markets and squares human smugglers meet their desperate customers, without much publicity. Overnight Samsom drove with a police patrol to the coastal town of Cesme and saw “two front crawl strokes away” the lights of the Greek island of Chios. Samsom understood: if the refugee stream was to be reduced “to zero”, as his coalition partner Rutte wanted, then a taboo-breaking approach was needed.
Samsom was inspired by some “reading material” that he received from the Dutch Embassy in Ankara, in preparation for his visit. In that folder was the plan of Gerald Knaus, chairman of the European Stability Initiative, a European think tank. Knaus spoke wishfully of a Merkel plan, hoping that the Chancellor would pick up on it. Later, Rutte turns it into a Samsom plan: return all migrants to Turkey by ferry in exchange for a legitimate air bridge to Europe for recognized refugees.
On Monday, 14 December, the weekly discussions of the governing coalition are held in The Hague, with Samsom and Lodewijk Asscher for the PvdA, Rutte and Halbe Zijlstra for the VVD. Samsom talks about his visit and ideas and finds a surprising amount of understanding from the two liberals. They see similarities especially with the government’s previous letter on asylum policy and the VVD’s asylum plan by Malik Azmani, a deputy.
Three days later, prior to the EU summit, Rutte consults with the so-called coalition of the willing in Brussels. It is made up of about a dozen countries who want to make progress with the Turkish agreements. Rutte has the core of the Samsom plan sketched out on a piece of paper. He consults with Merkel who has been pressing for more generosity on legal migration from Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, also present, is startled: why take back all the refugees? A few hours later Rutte nails the take back hook in Brussels on the wall.
On Friday, 1 January, the Dutch EU presidency begins. Ministers and officials have been cramming gorgeous policy programs for eighteen months, but everyone knows: The Netherlands will be judged on managing the refugee crisis. For the VVD, the Presidency is not a burden that they cannot avoid anymore; Rutte, but also State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff (Security and Justice), are highly motivated.
Therefore, on Thursday, 14 January, Dijkhoff invites, in secret, the Greek Minister for Migration, Ioannis Mouzalas. They have lunch at the ministry in The Hague; fish with salad and sparkling water. Dijkhoff makes it clear that Greece may soon need to return all migrants, including Syrian refugees, to its archenemy Turkey. Mouzalas swallows, his leftist Syriza government abhors evictions, but finally nods.
Friday, 15 January, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, uses his comeback in the New Year for a political thunder speech. The euro, the single market, Schengen, everything will disappear if the flow of refugees will not be brought under control, Juncker warns.
A week later, Wednesday, 20 January, Prime Minister Rutte seizes the political launch of the EU Presidency by drawing a hard deadline. “The number of refugees must drastically go down in the next six to eight weeks,” he says in the European Parliament. A day earlier EU President Donald Tusk gave the Union two months. There is no way that they co-ordinated their statements, but both politicians share the feeling that something horrible is about to happen.
“We didn’t know what to do anymore” admits a Dutch official. It was not the Turkey action plan that determined the refugee stream, but the weather. An employee of Tusk holds up two iPads: on the one a graph with the wind force and direction of the Aegean Sea, on the other the number of refugees in the Greek islands. “The correlation was striking,” says the employee. Sometimes there are 4,000 immigrants per day, and that in January. “The sailing season had not even started yet,” says an EU official. “It was now all hands on deck: Help! Spring is coming!” Brussels fears in 2016 not one but two million applications for asylum.
Thursday, 21 January, the political and economic elite meets in Davos (World Economic Forum). Rutte is there, as is Davutoglu. Rutte makes his major concerns known to the Turkish Prime Minister. To draw a deadline for the action, Rutte suggests to put together a team of senior officials: two from the Netherlands, two from Germany, two from the Commission and some more from Turkey. Their task is pulling and dragging, to continue pushing when the leaders are home again. The company was named the “Ankara club” by the prime minister. It will be as important for the final deal as the politicians.
Crucial is also the letter that Juncker writes on Monday, 25 January, to the Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar. Very straightforwardly the President announces that Member States and non-EU countries (Macedonia) may close their borders to immigrants who want to travel alone (to Germany) or who have no chance of obtaining a residence permit (economic migrants). In short: Greece may be sealed off.
“A turning point,” says a diplomat who did not forget how shortly before, Juncker was very critical of border controls. An EU official calls the letter the “Genesis of the solution to the problem of asylum”. Both speak of “cascading back”, allowing back flow of refugees to Greece and finally Turkey. Half a month later the closing of the Balkan route seems to be an effective means of pressure against Turkey.
Without explicitly naming the letter (which was never published) State Secretary Dijkhoff uses it as a crowbar at a meeting of European justice ministers on the same day in Amsterdam. Macedonia receives support for guarding its borders. The Greek minister Mouzalas responds bitterly. For dinner Dijkhoff has invited the Turkish Minister of the Interior Sebahattin Öztürk, and there he is informed of the Balkan dam raised by Europe.
Germany furious about Samsom’s bad timing
Thursday, 28 January, Labour leader Samsom gives, through an interview with the Volkskrant, a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes. He talks about the Ankara club and outlines the main features of the new agreement with Turkey which is being changed frantically: the returns by ferry and airlift for 150 to 250 thousand legal immigrants per year. In the afternoon, an employee of Rutte receives a text message from his German colleague: “What a terrible way to kill a good plan.”
Berlin fears that Davutoglu will back out. Turkey is home to 2.7 million refugees and the last thing that Davutoglu is expecting is the message from the Netherlands that there is still more to come. “It could not have come at a worse time,” says an official. Samsom admits later that the interview was “barely consulted” with Rutte. Or even with his own group. The effect is that the Samsom plan gets international attention. “It got fixated in the minds of European leaders,” says a diplomat.
On Sunday, 31 January, officials of Security and Justice, Foreign Affairs and General Affairs write their own action plan. It is named “Reducing the flows” in English because it was used as a guide to the Ankara club. The idea is simple: if from mid-March the refugee stream needs to be dramatically reduced, which measures are needed to achieve this? A division of work and labour is created: what will Rutte do, what will Merkel. “You should always prepare for the next question of your political boss”, a person explains the dynamic action plan.
On Thursday, 4 February, all the political protagonists are in London for the big Syria donor conference. On the margins of it, Merkel, Rutte, Tusk, Davutoglu and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann meet. The Turkish prime minister admits the failure of the old agreement from November. We need something new, something better.
Merkel is politically under increasing pressure domestically due to the massive influx of asylum seekers. The chancellor visits, in view of elections in three federals states (13 March), Davutoglu in Ankara on Monday, 8 February. The result is modest: a list of promises about cooperation and a joint request to NATO to deploy boats in the Turkish-Greek waters against smugglers.
Two days later (Wednesday, 10 February) Davutoglu comes to The Hague. He elaborately consults Rutte on how to break the deadlock. Davutoglu makes clear that he does not want to dry up the flow of refugees first and only then – perhaps, one day – to be released via a migration air bridge to Europe. “Immediate crossing”, is the message. This time it is Rutte swallowing, because he is the man of the “first to zero”.
“All the wheels had to turn at the same time,” an official characterizes the Turkish desire. A colleague has a more dramatic metaphor: “Hand in hand jumping off the cliff.”
The conversation goes on in a good atmosphere. Davutoglu appreciates the directness of Rutte. Hard but fair, he says. He calls to settle the refugee issue under the Dutch EU Presidency. Davutoglu has little confidence in the upcoming Slovak presidency – Slovakia refuses to accept any asylum seekers.
In the evening, Rutte is the main guest at the first Correspondents’ Dinner in Amsterdam. It is intended that, just as in the US, the prime minister, other politicians and commentators make fun of each other once a year. “If that fails, I’ll just call it the Samsom Plan,” Rutte jokingly says.
Thursday, 18 February, and Friday, 19 February, the EU leaders wait for another difficult summit: the one about Brexit. Tusk has worked for months on a compromise that Britain must remain in the EU and does not plan to disrupt his “party” with a headache from another file: migration. “Tusk wanted to show: the EU is capable of solving a large and complex problem. But not two at once,” says an EU official.
But he does not count on Merkel and Rutte. The chancellor lets Tusk know in advance that she has “complete confidence” in his Brexit approach and wants to talk especially about migration. Tusk yields. The dinner of the leaders Thursday evening is reserved for migration. Ultimately the discussion does not really work out, because Davutoglu does not come to Brussels due to the attacks in Ankara. Nevertheless, for the first time the leaders discuss Turkey’s “one-for-one”-wish. At Merkel’s request, an additional EU-Turkey summit is held on 7 March. She wants a breakthrough before the federal state elections of 13 March.
On Thursday, 3 March, Samsom airs his frustration in the Volkskrant. The PvdA fears that the momentum has evaporated for his plan because the EU and Turkey are waiting for each other. As a sign of “good will” the EU should take already at least 400 refugees per day from Turkey. Zijlstra immediately strikes the idea down: “First the zero, then the exchange, otherwise we are doubly screwed,” says Zijlstra.
The piece from de Volkskrant leads to a roaring argument between Samsom and Rutte. On the phone, the prime minister accuses his coalition partner that his timing is (again) disastrous. Ankara doesn’t do anything with the goodwill gesture, says Rutte. Wait and pull is his motto. Emotions are running high. “Screw it then!” Samson shouts through his mobile phone to Rutte. Before he hangs up, he calls on the prime minister to take the offer, if the Turks come up with one. The quarrel between Samson and Rutte is settled again quickly. The two call each other for weeks “almost every fifteen minutes”, says an official.
That Samsom says this just that Thursday is no coincidence. He knows – from Gerald Knaus of the European Stability Initiative – that Ankara wants to move. Knaus, the man of the Merkel/Samsom Plan, has excellent contacts in Ankara, Berlin and Brussels. Tusk and European Commissioner Frans Timmermans also visit the Turkish Prime Minister in Ankara that afternoon. A little pressure won’t hurt, Samsom says.
Davutoglu makes an interesting offer to Tusk and Timmermans: he is willing to take back all economic migrants who arrive via Turkey into Greece. That would nearly halve the flow of refugees. The news gets a prominent place the next day. When Tusk and Timmermans ask if there is anything more to get, they get no for an answer.
The Ankara club also dines in Ankara that evening. There the atmosphere is quite different: the Turkish officials seem indeed willing to discuss matters further. Taking back Syrian refugees is explicitly discussed. “We will come up with a new proposal soon,” the Turks promise. Late in the evening Rutte receives a text message from one of his officials: the door with the Turks is opening, definitely try to get more.
Turkish pizza for Merkel and Rutte
Sunday midday on 6 March the EU ambassadors in Brussels go once again through the final declaration for the EU-Turkey summit the following day. Everything is in it: Turkey takes the economic migrants back, the NATO mission in the Aegean can begin. Around 5 o’clock everyone goes home happy. “Prepared according to the handbook,” says an EU official about the summit on Monday.
The Dutch EU Ambassador Pieter de Gooijer and his German counterpart, however, do not go home. Another meeting awaits them, one that will put everything upside down.
Davutoglu has invited Merkel for coffee Sunday evening at the Turkish EU embassy in Brussels, Avenue des Arts. Merkel asks whether Rutte will come along, after all he is EU president and the two are pulling together for weeks now on the refugee crisis. Some Dutch officials mix up their names to “Ruttel and Merke”, so close is the bond.
The expectations on the Dutch side are low. “Relationship management” is what Rutte is told to do during coffee with Davutoglu; especially hold him to what is included in the draft final declaration. Rutte and Merkel come with small delegations, five men, the Turks welcome them with about 40 employees. “It was a bazaar,” recalls one participant. “Everyone ran into each other. I soon dropped our idea of a short session in a small context.” When Davutoglu arrives a little after 21 o’clock – he comes with some delay from Tehran – he immediately proposes a conversation just among the leaders.
The Dutch and German officials withdraw. Ambassador De Gooijer ends up by chance in the Turkish delegation room. “It is taking a long time”, he says after 20 minutes to the Turkish Ministers of Foreign and European Affairs. “More will come”, they answer. What then?, de Gooijer asks carefully. “Syrians” is the answer. “Take them back.” Then the ministers keep their mouth shut.
In the large meeting room on the street side, Davutoglu submits a paper for Merkel and Rutte: one page with twelve points, five for Turkey, seven for the EU. It is stated in clumsy English. The last changes were made during the flight from Tehran, then it had to be printed, which was not possible on the plane. Davutoglu offers to take back all refugees, exactly what Merkel, Rutte and the Ankara club want. But it has a hefty price: instantly 6 billion for the reception of refugees; for every Syrian Turkey takes back from Greece, Europe resettles one from Turkey; on 1 June lifting of visa requirements for Turks traveling to Europe; on 1 July opening of new policy areas (chapters) in the negotiations on Turkey’s EU membership.
After half an hour Merkel and Rutte come out. A joint delegation meeting of Germany and the Netherlands follows. Merkel and Rutte sit on one side of the table, officials on the opposite. The official language is English. Merkel takes the floor first and talks about a breakthrough. She is, albeit cautious, enthusiastic. Rutte – jacket off – calls the Turkish proposal a surprise and a turning point.
Some officials are perplexed, react in disbelief, searching for the viper in the grass. But often there is none. Davutoglu waits and so Merkel and Rutte work through the text point by point. Virtually all the criticism erupting on the proposal in the days after is already on the agenda: Are the rights of refugees guaranteed? Where does the money come from? Where does it go? What happens to the conditions for abolishing the visa requirements? What “additional chapters” can be opened without political damage?
A Dutch official sends a text message to a colleague in the European Commission: “Are you still awake? Need your help.” The Commission person is already sleeping. When he reads the message the next morning, he immediately knows what it is about. “The cake was there, even the icing, what comes now is a beautiful cherry.”
Around midnight, a Turkish official pokes his head around the corner: how long will the delegation’s consultation last? Fifteen minutes later, Rutte and Merkel join Davutoglu, a bit later the officials come. For hours the Turkish proposal is negotiated. Rights, money, visas – it’s pushing and pulling. At half past two Davutoglu has food brought in: Turkish pizza.
At 3 o’clock Davutoglu thinks it is enough. “The problems are obvious,” he says. “Let our advisors now continue.” He, Merkel and Rutte leave for their hotel. Led by the Dutch top official Jan Willem Beaujean – permanent member of the Ankara club – consultants bicker until five hours later. The Turkish delegation is trying to cram in new demands. Beaujean cuts it off: “That was not what our bosses agreed upon.”
Afterwards de Gooijer sends a text message to Piotr Serafin, cabinet chief of Tusk: “It looks different. Meeting as soon as possible!”
Monday morning, 7 March. It is early day for the Dutch and German delegations. They realize that the news about a new deal will strike as a bomb. Not only because it is far reaching and controversial, but because 26 other heads of government, Tusk and Juncker did not expect this at all. “They had an invitation to a different party”, says a diplomat.
Around 8 am de Gooijer and Beaujean walk to the Justus Lipsius building for consultation with Serafin, Martin Selmayr (the right hand of Juncker) and two senior officials from the European civil service. “It was a how-do-I-tell-it-to-my-mother talk,” said one of those present. The two officials sniff: their carefully constructed “choreography” for the summit lies in ruins. Serafin is silent. He thinks about his boss who knows nothing and soon has the EU summit to lead. He also thinks of the unprecedented opportunities that are on the table. Selmayr listens carefully and then uses the word “game changer”. It is the Commission’s message that day.
It is 9 pm when Merkel and Rutte sit around the table with Tusk and Juncker. They explain the plan. Rutte praises “Donald” for his outstanding work. “Without your efforts, this would not have been possible.” Tusk speaks of a “disruptive, very uncomfortable proposal that is too promising to ignore”. Juncker hesitates, especially on the enforceability.
What follows is “Code Red,” as one official puts it: to do everything so that the frustration and annoyance of the now arriving – and waiting – leaders is restricted to a minimum. Merkel rushes to French President Francois Hollande. Rutte takes care of the Greek and Cypriot prime ministers, key players in the refugee settlement.
As expected, a storm of criticism rages over Merkel and Rutte. Their colleagues speak of a “robbery” and “sell-out”, warn against millions of visa-free Turkish tourists and against Turks in general (the Bulgarian Prime Minister: Never trust a Turk). Rutte and Merkel listen and explain, but also ask their colleagues: What is your alternative?
Diederik Samsom is in Brussels that day, for consultations with his Socialist colleagues. He smiles broadly: the ball is rolling in the direction desired by him. In the afternoon the Dutch delegation is bursting into the Justus Lipsius building: Rutte is there, Merkel, Hollande, David Cameron, Alexis Tsipras, EU Foreign chief Federica Mogherini and Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades. The Cypriot vetoes the Turkish demand to open five “enlargement chapters” that Cyprus had frozen earlier. Dutch-German pressure leads nowhere. Anastasiades knows he can never come home if he says yes. It would be the destruction of the promising talks on reunification for his island – the opportunity of this century. “The unity of Cyprus is above that of the EU”, the Cypriots lets us know.
Only in the evening does Davutoglu join. He negotiates for hours with Merkel, Rutte, Tusk and Juncker on a new text, the basis for an agreement. The tension sometimes runs high, Juncker and Tusk smoking. Davutoglu complains that EU leaders delay their promised billions. Again it is late, again there is pizza, Italian this time.
Around one o’clock in the morning there is a compromise outlined; a total agreement was not possible yet. The billions for Turkey come later, the visa freedom shifts from early to late June, the rights of refugees are not yet insured, but the core of the proposal launched Sunday night remains: Turkey takes back all migrants. In ten days, in accordance with the deadlines set by Tusk and Rutte, the agreement must be signed.
“We now have a week to save the reunification of Cyprus and to rewrite the Geneva Convention,” an EU official notes cynically. Tusk takes over the lead from Merkel and Rutte and travels to Nicosia on Tuesday, 15 March. He assures Anastasiades that his island will not be sacrificed on a Turkish chopping block. “Cyprus is not for sale,” Tusk announces indoors. In his pocket he has a solution to the controversial five chapters demanded by Ankara. Turkey gets another chapter, number 33, which deals with how Turkey – if it ever becomes a member of the EU – should contribute financially to the Union. “A completely empty gesture,” said an EU official.
Then Tusk flies to Ankara. After his meeting with Davutoglu, Tusk says that there is still a lot of work to be done.
At midday on Thursday, 17 March, the EU leaders arrive in Brussels for their spring summit. During dinner they give Tusk and Rutte a mandate to negotiate with Davutoglu the next day. Hard conditions: hands off Cyprus; no cheating with the visa requirements; no infringement on the rights of refugees. Before the meeting closes, Tusk calls on all leaders to cancel any separate agreements with Davutoglu. He does not feel like new surprises.
In the morning of Friday, 18 March, Tusk, Juncker, Rutte and Davutoglu sit around the table once again. During the first round of talks, the Turkish Prime Minister puts everything up for discussion; his interlocutors are afraid of a new night-time summit. Panicked tweets continue to appear on Saturday. But from the second round it goes in a straight line towards the agreement. Tension hardly arises. The only hassle arises when Davutoglu pulls at the Belgian authorities that allow PKK supporters to demonstrate in Brussels.
A little before five in the afternoon Tusk tweets: “Unanimous support for the EU-Turkey deal.” The hook, which Rutte on 17 December nailed to the wall, supports the agreement; Turkey takes the migrants back, may close borders, must guard borders. The turnaround in asylum policy is a fact. “This was the easiest part of the deal,” an EU official notes blithely. “Now comes the execution.”
This is the presentation I gave in Oslo at the Aspen Ministers Forum on 22 April (also available in PDF format) where I was presenter at a session on the “Geopolitics of refugees” to debate the refugee crisis and possible solutions.
This year’s speakers included Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director Frontex, and Fabrizio Hochschild, Deputy to the Special Adviser on the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, United Nations, among others.
The meeting was chaired by former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. 20 former foreign ministers from around the world participated, among others, Joschka Fischer (Germany), Alexander Downer (Australia), and Abdullah Gül (Turkey).