The Turkey agreement

This week, the refugee crisis has gained new and deep attention due to the controversial deal stricken with Turkey to contain the Balkan route. On EurActiv, Maria João Rodrigues is puzzled by the agreement and asks whether some more decent, cheaper and more reliable solutions were really lacking. Instead of outsourcing the problem, Europe had enough financial resources, technology and willing people to create a strong external border apt to ensure security and, at the same, time respecting human rights. Mehmet Ugur, on Social Europe, argues that the agreement is not only shameful on moral and political grounds, but it is also falsely based on national interest. As Marcur Olson’s theoretical analysis suggests, national interest is high jacked by small and tightly-organized interest groups and not determined by the public at large, whose valuing of democracy and human rights has been easily sidestepped on this issue. Simon Jenkins, on The Guardian, regards the Turkey agreement as futile, and argues that it was reached to falsely suggest to people of the Member States that “something is being done”. Immigration is and is bound to be a fact of life, and politicians are deluded if they think they can turn back the tide. Nikos Konstandaras, on the New York Times, deplores the lack of moral and political courage, which is far more dangerous to the survival of the EU than the refugee flow. One of the few positive voices, Alexander Bürgin, argues on EurActiv that the deal might turn out to be a positive development. Realistically, no sustainable alternative was in sight. All but a very few refugees will be discouraged from taking this risky route and, thus, very few of Syrian refugees currently staying in Turkish camps are expected to be resettled in the EU. Moreover, European values are not surrendered insofar as tightened relations with Turkey would allow the EU to exert more effective political pressure.

Merkel’s leadership in Europe

Angela Merkel’s open handed approach on the refugees’ crisis lead to a considerable success of the far right in the German local elections. Thus, a debate has ensued about the political future of Merkel who, according to Timothy Garton Ash, stands at the centre of Germany, as Germany stands at the centre of Europe. According to the Economist and Nico Lange on Politico, she still has a bright future ahead and the results of the local elections are ambiguous. The local CDU was less favourable to immigration than Merkel, and parties more favourable towards immigration (like the Greens) enjoyed positive results. While this is true also for Anna Sauerbrey, on the New York Times she argues that this election is still a clear victory for anger and an important lesson for German policy makers. Moreover, Germany appears in a less commanding position in Europe on the refugees’ crisis than on the past economic crisis, and Merkel seems suddenly dependent on autocratic Turkey and the good will of the rest of the European Union.

The road to Brexit

The debate on Brexit was enriched by some interesting contributions this past week. On EUROPP, André Sapir and Guntram B. Wolff try to debunk the “sovereignty myth”: the idea that by opting out of the union, the UK could in fact find itself with more sovereignty. Assuming the UK remains in the common market, it will be subject to many regulations. Staying outside the EU gives them little or no autonomy in shaping these rules. Scott James, on EUROPP, considers the position of the financial sector of the City of London. Indeed, the mild consensus against Brexit hides a political division: the banking sector is against Brexit, afraid of losing access to the European financial market and hostile to Westminster, who established an independent Commission on Banking (ICB) and imposed requirements beyond those sanctioned by the Commission. On the contrary, the highly fragmented non-banking sector (private equity, hedge funds and venture capital firms) worries about Bruxelles’s Franco-German regulatory initiatives, like the Alternative Investment Fund Managers’ Directive, and is thus more in favour of Brexit. On The Guardian, Mark Wallace endorses the argument of conservative Iain Duncan Smith’s quest for social justice. Leaving Europe would provide both the money and the freedom to address Britain social problems. It is unjust and undemocratic that the UK has to cut social expenditures at home and have no control over the money sent to Bruxelles. Finally, Derrick Wyatt on Oxpol considers the yet unknown legal procedures to exit the EU. The fact that article’s 50 is silent on the exit procedures means that Brexit is going to be a process not an event. Only by remaining in the EU until a new agreement is successfully negotiated, a smooth transition could be achieved.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

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