According to a British diplomat, Chancellor Angela Merkel is ready to give visa-free travel in the Schengen zone to 75 million Turkish citizens despite the failure to meet key European Union conditions.
In starkly undiplomatic language, British Ambassador to Germany Sir Sebastian Wood has said that Chancellor Merkel’s officials are ready to strike a “compromise formulation” on the Turkish terrorism law which was a sticking point to the proposed EU-Turkey migrant deal.
The Turkish leader, President Erdoğan, recently said that telling his country to soften its counter-terror laws was tantamount to asking it to give up its struggle against terrorism. In saying so he was threatening to scupper the deal which is designed to give Turks visa-free travel to Europe in return for stemming the flow of illegal migrants to the continent.
At first the EU said it would not give in to Turkish pressure, but now The Daily Telegraph reports that a leaked diplomatic telegram (‘DipTel’) written last month by Sir Sebastian suggests otherwise.
In the May 13 memo, Sir Sebastian said President Erdoğan’s pursuit of German satirist Jan Böhmermann “only strengthened the view that he is an authoritarian bully who is trying to blackmail Europe.” He also wrote, regarding the migrant deal:
“Despite the tough public line, there are straws in the wind to suggest that in extremis the Germans would compromise further to preserve the EU-Turkey deal.
“Merkel has begun to paint the deal in humanitarian terms, (pointing out that since it came into force, only 9 people have drowned), to pre-empt human rights opposition. Officials here have shown some interest, behind the scenes, about possible compromise formulations on the anti-terror law.”
Sir Sebastian’s comments appear to reflect the line taken by European Parliament President Martin Schulz last month, when he used an interview to say how he was against scrapping the EU-Turkey migrant deal despite President Erdoğan’s “monopolisation of power”, claiming:
“The refugees would have to pay the price in the end. We need a good agreement. We will therefore continue to cooperate with Turkey, but we must not remain silent.”
There are fears that President Erdoğan could increase migrant flows if the visa waiver deal, which had been due to kick in on July 1, is not concluded.
Sir Sebastian said the German government thinks it can “keep Erdoğan at the table,” keeping “the deal in play through the summer spike” with a “carefully fudged delay on both sides until October”. In doing so they will be able to hold a lid on tensions until long after Britain’s upcoming referendum.