Europe's Faustian Pact with the Sultan
Pepe ESCOBAR | 14.03.2016 | OPINION

Europe's Faustian Pact with the Sultan

Anyone who haggled about the price of a carpet in a Turkish bazaar knows these guys are more reptilian than Henry Kissinger. They always get what they want by letting you leave with the impression you got what you want for a price way higher than you were initially inclined to pay.

Cue to a bunch of clueless European tourists haggling about a refugee deal with carpet bazaar ace Ahmet Davutoglu – Turkey’s Prime Minister and grand vizier of Sultan Erdogan. Much more than clinching a sleazy deal, the EU may end up selling what’s left of its allegedly humanitarian and democratic «principles», a.k.a. soul, to the carpet man. Did neither of these Eurocrats ever read Goethe’s Faust?  

So let’s recap what the EU will get from Ankara’s masterful extortion racket. Instead of paying 3 billion euros for the refugee «carpet», it will pay 6.6 billion euros. It will facilitate visa-free travel for what’s left of the Schengen space to 75 million Turks. It will accelerate the bureaucratic road map for Turkish pre-accession to the EU. And it will comply with Ankara’s demand that for every Syrian re-expelled from Greece back to Turkey – over 2,000 arrive everyday as we speak – one Turk will be allowed to settle in the EU’s austerity purgatory. 

This is what the Mob usually dubs «an offer you can’t refuse».

A bunch of European tourists

The Eurocrats thought they had a deal – part of the so-called EU-Turkey Action Plan – before a fateful Brussels summit early in the week, on March 7. EU – and mostly German – absolute desperation was already set in stone; without a deal with Ankara the alternative is the collapse of Schengen (which has already happened anyway) and the erosion of public trust in the EU’s institutions (also already happened).

In Chancellor Merkel’s words, because of the war in Syria and the «geostrategic» situation, a deal with Turkey is «absolutely in Europe’s interest». European Commission President, devious operator Jean-Claude Juncker, added, «this is a real game-changer».

Well, it was a game-changer for the Turks, for sure. Ankara was so dismissive of that bunch of sissy European tourists they raided Zaman, the country’s largest newspaper, took it over, tear gas included, turned it into a pro-AKP rag, and got away with it. Sanctions? That’s for Syria – and Iran. Turkey smashes a newspaper and is rewarded with negotiations on turbo mode for EU membership. So much for «press freedom» and an independent judiciary.

Behaving as absolutely lousy students of history, the Eurocrats were convinced the Sultan and his vizier would take the initial deal because they badly needed EU help in their self-created, nasty confrontation with Russia; extra support along the Turkish-Syrian border (the Sultan’s famous «safe zone» dream); and would be further mollified by NATO ships being used for coast guard patrols.

But then the carpet man pulled a master gambit, and invited his top customer for dinner.

Picture wily Davutoglu running rings around Merkel at the Turkish embassy in Brussels on Sunday evening, March 6. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte – holding the rotating EU presidency – was the other invited tourist.

Davutoglu unrolled a magic carpet ride. Nothing, absolutely nothing that had been discussed for weeks applied anymore. Ankara had a new, much more elaborate «offer you can’t refuse», and the EU summit was scheduled for the day after.

The only thing left for a poor, livid Chancellor was to wake up early on Monday and try to convince everybody else on short notice this was a steal. All hell predictably broke loose. Delegations from quite a few nations openly blamed the Chancellor’s naiveté. In the end there was no consensus, just the Chancellor meekly, vaguely promising that a deal was near.

Grapes of Wrath, the Balkan remix

Brussels has up to the end of next week to seal the deal, during another EU summit. It will be a wild ride. This thing is set to open a can of legal worms/juridical nightmares.

To start with, the «principled» EU may be facing some sort of mass deportation of refugees to countries where they most certainly will enjoy shaky legal protection. So count on EU lawyers to find a loophole; they will elevate Turkey to the status of a «safe third country». Amnesty International is already furious – but who cares?

The one-refugee-for-one-Turk exchange is even more slippery – and there are no loopholes. Only a miracle from Valhalla will convince, among others, the Baltic nations, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Slovenia to accept further refugee relocation inside their own borders. The Balkan Route for all practical purposes went six feet under when Slovenia closed it down. What is Berlin to do? Reopen it with a blitzkrieg?

Moreover, only a miracle from Zeus will convince Greece as well as Cyprus – not to mention France and Italy – that opening the EU doors to Turkey is the right price to pay to ease the crisis.

So assuming a deal is clinched it will open yet another chapter in one of the great tragedies of our time; next it will be a Grapes of Wrath scenario, lost souls plying the Balkan Route – including many families – fighting with their lives not to be deported back to Turkey.

And another «mystery» will remain unsolved; how this mass of refugees got there in the first place.

First they had to sneak around western Turkey – a highly indented coast, with few major cities and only a few local bus lines – on their way to a smatter of Greek islands, mostly Mytilini and Kos but also Chios and Kastellorizo. They would have traveled more than 1000 kilometers from the Turkish-Syrian border – where many had been languishing. 

They left because Ankara told them to. They may have even had enjoyed direct and indirect access to some Ankara «help» to get on bus after bus after bus. Picture the Sultan’s network shipping their massive overland blackmail cargo by bus, delivered right on the doorstep of smuggling rings with the right connections, ready to ferry them across the Aegean to Greece.

Talk about a precious cargo. And this cargo is about to make Ankara handsomely profit to the tune of 6.6 billion – plus immense fringe benefits. And still those sorry Eurocrat tourists believe they are clinching the deal of the century; the «carpet» they are taking home is as rotten as they come.