On March 18, 2016, former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the current President of the European Council, announced that the European Union has successfully concluded a deal with Turkey to curb the flow of migrants coming into Europe from its territory. Action was imperative: in 2015 over 1 million migrants came by sea and entered into Europe, seeking asylum. In the first two months of 2016, another 127,000 entered Europe, mainly from Turkey to Greece. Europe has not seen this level of mass migration since the end of World War II.
DEFINITION: The term ‘migrant’ is being employed to describe all people who are migrating from Asia and Africa to Europe. This includes genuine refugees fleeing from war and terror, as well as those who are looking for a better way of life, known as ‘economic migrants.’
Anyone who has objectively watched the situation closely realises that something had to be done. Despite its advanced societies and extensive welfare system, Europe and the EU simply cannot absorb an unlimited amount of migrants from North Africa and Asia. High unemployment, increased indebtedness, failure to assimilate into European society, strains on the welfare system, the threat of jihadist migration and attack - all these coalesce to cause Europe to take action.
The Schengen zone, with passport-free travel between 26 European countries, is now under threat as transit countries are closing their doors to migrant passage. Economically-challenged Greece now finds itself an unwitting host to migrants who are not allowed to proceed northward, especially to Germany and Sweden. Turkey itself is housing up to 3 million migrants and it is being stretched to the limit while it continues to battle with Kurdish separatist (and terrorist attacks in Ankara & Istanbul) as well as the so-called Islamic State in Syria.
The terms of the agreement are as follows:
1. Migrants who leave Turkey and sail to Greece unauthorised in order to enter the European Union (EU) will be sent back to Turkey; this is to discourage them from making the dangerous journey and also to put the people-smugglers out of business;
2. Greece will individually assess all arrivals and those who are ‘irregular’ will be sent back to Turkey;
3. Migrants who are verified refugees, Syrians being the priority, and patiently wait in Turkey may be settled in the European Union; this will be capped at 72,000.
4. The EU will help Turkey with 3 billion euros and also pledge another 3 billion in 2018;
5. Turkey’s application for membership in the EU will be accelerated.
6. Turkish nationals will have access to Schengen passport-free zone by June, but this does not apply to non-Schengen nations like Great Britain.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said ‘It’s a historic day today because we reach a very important agreement between Turkey and the EU. Today we realised that Turkey and EU have the same destiny, the same challenges and the same future.’
Of course, there is opposition to this deal. There may be legal challenges. Amnesty International declared on a large screen ‘Don’t trade refugees. Stop the deal.’ The question should be asked: who is to pay for such ‘compassion,’ in money, resource, national cohesion and security?
Something had to be done, and it has been.
While the motivation of this agreement is to slow down the flow of unauthorised migration to Europe, there is a bigger picture: how to handle Russia and the war in Syria. Russia has been hit with sanctions because of its annexation of Crimea and meddling in Ukraine. Yet it has become a force to be reckoned with in Syria and the world.
All this attention gives us an opportunity to focus on Turkey. This author has been saying for years that, if you can only focus on one country in the Middle East (apart from Israel), it should be Turkey. Yes, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, all have their important places, yet none of them have the clout that Turkey has.
Simply put: Turkey is the key player in the region. Look at any map and you will see that it is the nicely located navel of the world. It sits at the cross roads of Europe, Central Asia, the Arab world, and the Mediterranean. Home to several key empires, including the Hittites, Byzantine, Seljuks, and Ottoman, Turkey has connections with the former Soviet Central Asian republics (they are Turkic people) and the Balkans in Europe. The Bosnians, Albanians, and Kosovaars - white Europeans - all converted to Islam when the Ottoman Turks ruled their region. Most of all, Turkey holds the balance of power in the region. It can be a great force, either for peace or war.
Modern Turkey is vastly different from its imperialist, feudalistic, religious Ottoman past, just as the Federal Republic of Germany is from the Nazi era. This is courtesy of Ataturk (1881-1938), founder of the Turkish Republic. He single-handedly caused his nation to become secular, western-leaning, and (somewhat) democratic.
In recent times, Turkey had a military alliance with Israel (1996-2011), but relations soured after the incident of the ship Mavi Marmara which tried to break of blockage of Gaza and resulted in the death of 9 Turks. Yet recently, Turkey has reached out to Israel. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted on 2 January 2016: Turkey needs Israel.
A fact that is not appreciated is Turkey is part and parcel of the Bible lands, especially the New Testament. It was the stage of many of Paul’s missionary journeys, as recorded in the Book of Acts. It housed the churches that received such masterful epistles like Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Timothy, recipient of the pastoral epistles of 1 & 2 Timothy, came from Lystra in central Turkey. Finally, the seven churches of the Book of Revelation were located in western central Turkey.
Regarding the future, what should the EU do about Turkey’s application for membership? Until now, the EU has done a ‘go-slow.’ There is clearly resistance from some EU member states about welcoming Turkey into the ‘European club.’ They say that Turkey’s human rights record is not good and/or that Turkey is not ‘European enough.’
Yet, with some needed safeguards, letting Turkey into the EU makes senses. It could have some positive benefits for Europe and the world, especially in preserving Turkey’s secular heritage. For as long as Turkey remains ‘Ataturk secular,’ then the balance of power in the Middle East will remain stable.
If, however, Europe finally rejects Turkey, it will conclude that its century-old attempt to go western and secular has failed, they will never be accepted by Europe, and they might as well return to a religious (fundamentalist or even fanatical orientation), like in the days of the Ottomans.
If that happens, the whole world will feel the tremors.
Therefore, in light of all of the above, it behooves us to watch Turkey.
BOOK OF REVELATION TOUR NOVEMBER 2016
This tour will explore the Bible lands of the 7 churches of Revelation, Cappadocia and Greece. For more information, contact Leanne at email@example.com