Not just in Bulgaria, there has been a lot of talk about Erdoğan’s threats to open the borders, in order to “flood Europe with refugees”. In December of 2016, he said: “Watch it. If you go any further, those borders will be opened. We warned you.”
In the wake of the latest ridiculous arguments between the Netherlands and Germany on the one, and Turkey on the other hand, government spokesman Numan Kurtulmuş had said in Ankara, his country would re-evaluate the “EU Turkey Deal”. Translated, this means something like “Do what we tell you to do, or Europe will be flooded.”
Bulgaria’s interim government obviously got nervous after reading about this latest threat. Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov announced that Bulgaria was preparing for an increased flow of “migrants” and had taken “additional measures”, including a reinforcement of the southern border.
Sure, Bulgaria is Turkey’s northern neighbour and things might look different from this perspective. But there are politicians, diplomats and observers in Europe, who do not believe Erdoğan is as dangerous as he thinks.
According to media quotes coming out of Brussels, the threats from Ankara about opening the border lead to amusement rather than worries.
Within the world of politics in Berlin, more and more voices are saying, enough politeness had been exercised in front of the president in Ankara. They are demanding an official end to the E.U. accession talks with Turkey and harsher reactions to the rants. Others in Berlin are saying, Germany should be careful since Erdoğan was keeping tens of thousands of refugees out of Europe.
Is he really? In the publication “Die Welt”, commentator Christoph B. Schiltz voiced his opinion, according to which the Turkish president does not really have a leverage. “One should tell the government in Ankara to get serious by opening those borders.” Schiltz does not believe Turkey will actually follow through on it.
According to “Die Welt”, the number of refugees who would in fact cross the borders into Bulgaria and Greece would be small, if Turkey really opened those borders. The publication says, Erdoğan would not be able to flood Europe with refugees, even if he really wanted to, since most of the 2.7 million Syrians who lived in Turkey at this stage wanted to stay. Another large part of them was waiting to return to Syria after the war.
On top of that, refugees did not have many reasons for heading in a north-western direction anymore, since the former Balkan Route was closed. This might be the only aspect the commentator is wrong about. But, all in all, it seems “Turkey needs the E.U. a lot more than the E.U. needs Turkey. It is time for Europe to show more self-confidence.”