Stockholm – ESI public lecture: EU, Turkey, Germany, Sweden and the refugee crisis

20 November 2015
Refugees arriving in Greece. Photo: Ben White/CAFOD (flickr)
Refugees arriving in Greece. Photo: Ben White/CAFOD (flickr)

The Institute for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University (SUITS) and the European Stability Initiative (ESI) cordially invite you to an open lecture on

EU, Turkey, Germany, Sweden and the refugee crisis

Friday, 20 November 2015, 13.00-14.00
Hörsalen, Medelhavsmuseet, Fredsgatan 2, Stockholm

The Syrian refugee crisis is putting a huge strain on the EU. What is to be done? What is happening in key EU countries? Which proposals stand any chance of making a difference? Which role could Turkey play? The European Stability Initiative has long argued that Germany and Turkey hold the key to any solution. In recent weeks its analyses and proposals have been widely quoted by policymakers and journalists throughout the EU.

ESI's Gerald Knaus will discuss the challenges and possible solutions for further cooperation between the EU and Turkey and the special roles for Germany and Sweden.

The discussion will be moderated by Dr Paul T Levin, SUITS.

In recent weeks, ESI has presented its proposal in BrusselsWarsawAnkara and TurkeyVienna, and Moscow. Presentations in Berlin and Sofia are forthcoming.

The proposal has triggered substantial media interest, particularly in Germany:

More media reactions are available on ESI's website.

Gerald Knaus is the founding chairman of ESI, an independent, not-for-profit think tank registered in Berlin and Istanbul. After studying in Oxford, Brussels and Bologna, Mr. Knaus taught economics in Ukraine and worked for NGOs and international organisations in Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1999, he founded ESI where he has co-authored more than 70 ESI reports. He is a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and was for five years an Associate Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School.

Gerald Knaus
Gerald Knaus



In recent weeks, EU institutions have tried to respond to the refugee crisis. They have failed. Levels of trust between Turkey and the EU have been low for years. Recent EU tactics trying to win Turkey's help in the refugee crisis have not helped.

Senior Turkish officials describe the current talks as a game of poker: "In poker, it matters what the first hand is that you show; it better be serious." In this case, the EU's first, second and third hands were far from serious. The most concrete proposal in the Draft Action Plan the EU presented to Turkish president Erdogan in Brussels in early October – a promise to "mobilise up to € 1 billion" in support for Turkey – involved relabelling pre-accession funds that had already been committed. As Prime Minister Davutoglu told a European counterpart recently, to treat this as a generous EU gesture "is an insult to our intelligence".

Anybody familiar with the tortuous history of EU-Turkey talks on visa liberalisation and the readmission of migrants also notices that the Action Plan contains nothing new. There are no new promises, commitments or incentives. Leaks to the press that there might be billions in additional funds for Turkey, "accelerated visa facilitation" (a red-flag concept in Ankara, and different from visa liberalisation, which means the abolition of the visa requirement like in the Western Balkan countries and Moldova in recent years), or that six accession negotiation chapters might be opened (or not, depending on Cyprus) cannot hide the fact that the EU and Turkey are no closer to a joint strategy on how to deal with the refugee crisis today than they were one month, or three years, ago.

Currently the EU pretends to offer Turkey something, and Turkey pretends that it will make an additional effort to stop refugees leaving. Neither side is serious. The EU and Turkey act like an old couple, condemned to stay together, but without love or respect left. Divorce is not an option; no family therapist is available; and every attempt to 'agree' on something confirms, in its frustrating failure, what both think about each other. Only this time the house is burning.