“I thank Greece for being our European shield in these times.”E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
The EU Commission President said that? Did she check with her old boss, Mama Merkel, first? Because that certainly does not sound like the sort of thinking we heard a few years ago when the German Chancellor defended her open-door policy that resulted in more than a million refugees settling in Germany.
Now, they’re worried about a few tens of thousands of refugees from Turkey getting across the border with Greece?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the increasingly tense and violent situation on the Turkish-Syrian border, but this story did not seem to get much attention in the Western media (or this blog for that matter – zero comments on it). As usual the West did not seem to give a damn about news of 700,000 Syrian refugees trying to get across that border into Turkey to escape the wrath of Syrian President Assad and his merry band of Iranian and Russian-backed troops. The Turks are defending that border with the Syrian Idlib province
But they’re doing the opposite a few hundred miles to the North-West, where they’ve opened their border with Greece to allow Syrian refugees to escape into Europe.
I expect that more media attention will now be paid, even though the two problems are connected. What journalist can resist photo ops like this one – and with no danger of being shelled!
The result is that the EU have hit the panic button. They already bribed Turkey several years ago with a deal that included $US 6.6 billion and enhanced EU-Turkey ties, including visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. In return Turkey agreed to stop the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it has, from crossing into Europe.
And now the EU is having to bribe Greece, with von der Leyen announcing a support package of $800 million in funding for Greece to use in maintaining infrastructure on the borders. For “infrastructure” read riot police. The photo above is from last Friday when refugees clashed with Greek riot-control police, who fired tear gas and water cannons at them and made thousands of arrests. And of course Greece is still in a financial and political crisis of its own, as it has been for almost a decade now. It can’t handle the influx.
But how long can the EU spend like this, given their own financial problems with the departure of Britain? Sooner or later they’re going to run out of other people’s money.
Erdogan of course is more than happy about all this. His border police and troops actually stopped the refugees from returning across the border from Greece after their clashes with the Greek border patrols.
While he may not have been able to get NATO to help him out militarily with Syria he knows he’s got the EU over a barrel. They either pay him more billions to keep the Syrian refugees in-country – or he simply allows them to start walking into the EU. The spirit of 2015 has long vanished in the EU: their leaders know there will be a social explosion if they allow that to happen again.
Still, the reference to a “Greek shield” took me by surprise. Perhaps Ms von der Leyen is less a Eurocrat and more of a populist than I thought? She has seven children, which already marks her out as very unusual in the Euro elite. And perhaps she knows ancient European history.
Certainly Greece’s nearer European neighbours such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland appear to. They were acting to help Greece even before the EU announcement, and they’re not just sending money but physical support such as logistics.
Can their troops be far behind?
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