Although a breakup of the European Union was avoided during the Greece Debt Crisis, the politics and economics of the “Brexit” could signal the beginning of the end for the EU and the Eurozone. From an American perspective, the international governing institutions of the European Union always seemed to contradict Europe’s strong cultural diversity and independence. Whatever the fate of the EU happens to be, dramatic political and economic shifts represent the greatest threat to the countries and Peoples of Europe. Europe faces a great deal of uncertainty that can only be mitigated by strong leadership capable of envisioning a path forward and producing policies that solve problems.
Ravished by one economic crisis after another, the Syrian Refugee Crisis currently threatens European stability and regional governance the most. European political leaders are desperate for solutions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the political backlash it has inspired. The European Union has rightfully turned to NATO member Turkey, which serves as a gateway to Europe thanks to its lengthy border with Syria. Although the role of Turkey is unavoidable, there are major problems with Turkey’s current leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that could transform Turkey’s solution for the Syrian Refugee Crisis into a far greater larger problem.
In exchange for €6 billion in humanitarian aid to support Turkey’s burgeoning refugee population and EU passports for all Turkish citizens, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to halt the flow of refugees into Europe and absorb one refugee from overburdened Greece for every one refugee settled in Europe. Ultimately, the Syrian Refugee Crisis will end once the Syrian Civil War is resolved and the Syrian People can start to rebuild their country, which could take years. Consequently, Erdogan’s proposal would leave Syrian refugees perpetually dependent on the Turkish government until they could return home.
For their part, European leaders praise Erdogan’s efforts to stem the flow of refugees as a means to crackdown on human trafficking by eliminating any hope of a better life in Europe. Given the Syrian refugees are fleeing a brutal war and Turkey offers little more than desperate poverty in overcrowded refugee camps, the legal barriers being erected by European leaders will not be enough to dissuade refugees from pushing forward into Europe. If anything, it will prevent refugees from obtaining legal status in Europe, which will be a thorough boon for criminal elements that exploit illegal aliens, thereby raising the risk of human rights violation.
Furthermore, Erdogan’s proposal guarantees somewhere around 75 million Turks will have a passport that will allow them to access opportunities in the far wealthier European Union. In essence, Europe is exchanging a few hundred thousand Syrian refugees, at the most, for millions of Turks seeking a better life in Europe. In turn, Europe will also pay to host Syrian refugees, which help blunt the harm done to the Turkish economy. The refugees will assuredly find some work in Turkey, yet that work will pay little and offer no future. In other words, Syrian refugees inside Turkey will be turned into a servant class for the Turks while Turkish citizens compete against Europeans for jobs in Europe.
Meanwhile, the seizure of the Turkey’s largest newspaper, “Today’s Zaman,” represents yet another case of Erdogan’s government cracking down on anyone who dissents from the President’s policies. As Erdogan has grown increasingly authoritarian in rule, his efforts to economically suppress dissent and push critics out of Turkey will only be aided by open borders with Europe. Not only will access to the European job market alleviate criticism of Erdogan’s economic policies, it will offer Erdogan the opportunity to create economic incentives for his detractors to flee Turkey. Instead of politically active citizens, Erdogan will have a strong population of politically disenfranchised refugees.
Although there is a need for money to help support millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, it appears Erdogan is using the situation to further his self-serving political agenda. Unfortunately, it appears European and Turkish political leaders see the issues before them as largely political in natural, so they are driven to seek political solutions. If not for the political pressure, they would probably be able to find a temporary housing solution then turn their attention to dealing with the Syrian Civil War. Instead, they fight the efforts of private entities. Like all politicians, they have done the calculations and discovered the easiest answer is to subcontract the problem to Turkey.
Ultimately, Turkey will eventually close its borders to new refugees and find ways to legitimize the expulsion of refugees inside Turkey, which means preventing Syrians from fleeing a war zone. Turkey will then be criticized by European leaders for the human rights violations, but they will have a solution that pacifies both those who see aiding the Syrian refugees as a responsibility and those who would do anything to keep Syrians out of Europe. Quite frankly, this political solution is no solution. It is Europe avoiding a problem and trying to save face. In the long run, this will create far greater problems for Europeans in addition to the Syrian People and the other Peoples of the Middle East.
Not only will Europe’s current solution to the Syrian Refugee Crisis incite further anti-Western sentiments, it will eventually start to drive Syrian refugees into weaker Middle Eastern countries. Already struggling with instability, poverty, terrorism, and civil unrest, the Syrian Refugee Crisis could easily overwhelm and devastate the fragile nations of the region. This could drive far greater numbers of refugees and economic migrants from all across the Middle East and North Africa to the shores of Europe. Consequently, European leaders need to find solution that can actually solve the Syrian Refugee Crisis without creating greater problems.
To do this, political leaders need to stop simply reacting to one crisis after other and start offering Europeans a vision for the future. The international governing institutions of the Europe Union will probably be significantly less important in the future, yet a steady restructuring of European governance in line with popular sentiments can offer the European Peoples hope for a brighter future. Political leaders also need to lead on the Refugee Crisis to offer some degree of certainty. This means finding places for the refugees to temporarily go and focusing on viable ways to resolve the Syrian Civil War instead of avoiding the problem with easy policies doomed to failure.
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