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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Prime Minister Mark Rutte in his weekly press conference at the refugees: “Don’t come to us. It’s too dangerous. All doors are locked for you within Europe. Stay there where you are now!”

Personal note to this article by Ernst Labruyère:

A large part of this article has been written before the gruesome and sickening attacks in Brussels yesterday and I consider the content to be interesting for my readers after all. That is the reason that I have decided to finish this article first.

Yet, I will definitely come back to that terrible and sad attack in a separate article, in order to express my concerns and worries about the currently emerging situation in the heart of the European Union. I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear about that attack in Brussels.

I really can’t understand how groups of misguided youngsters and religious fanatics can abuse their religion and their fundamental beliefs, in order to believe that what they are doing is both right and justified: either as an executioner or as a (silent) endorser of such attacks. This goes for Brussels, for Paris, for Moscow, for New York and of course for Istanbul or elsewhere in Turkey or the whole Middle East, as a matter of fact. What happened in Brussels, Paris and Istanbul simply isn’t right and it should not be done this way or any other way whatsoever.

In the aftermath of the Brussels and Paris’ attacks, louder and louder voices will be heard that want to change the EU in Fort Europe: an impenetrable and unbreakable bastion of freedom, wealth, (social security) and justice for all for a largely white, Christian and rather wealthy majority... on an island in an endless ocean of war, terror and violence.  A bastion in which is no place for refugees and no place for other – economic – immigrants, people with other religious beliefs and minorities from Africa and the Middle East.

It will be impossible and – as far as I’m concerned – totally undesirable for the EU to become Fort Europe. We are unfortunately lying in a very explosive and uptight part of the world and we have to cope with that as good as we can, but not by abolishing everything for which we stood and still stand.

We must stop terrorists and violent, religious fanatics, but we must also take away the breeding ground in which apparently normal youngsters turn into blood-thirsty killers of many, many innocent people.

We cannot do that be shutting the door for refugees or people with other religions than Christianity. And we cannot do that by cursing and shouting at religious minorities within our countries, cities and neighbourhoods or by laying pigheads within their vision. Those minorities are here and they will never go away anymore. Therefore we must find a way to co-exist in peace.

Perhaps many people think that I am soft on... anything, but few enemies have ever turned into peace-loving and law-obiding friends by the use of violence, brutal force, internment and social exclusion. So let’s take on the discussion and let’s see how we can end these terrible tragedies from now on: inside, but also outside the European Union.



The voice of heartless reason is a seductive voice,
as it makes you think that doing the wrong thing
is right and doing the right thing is wrong...
Ernst Labruyère – March, 2016

After reaching an agreement in principle with the Turkish government on behalf of the European Union, the Dutch Prime Minister and current chairman of the European Union Mark Rutte held a press conference. In this press statement, Rutte spoke about the measures that the EU and Turkey agreed upon, against the influx of Syrian and other refugees in the European Union. Mark Rutte also spoke briefly about the current refugee situation in Turkey and Greece. 

This press statement caused quite some commotion, due to what PM Rutte said with respect to the illegal influx of refugees and their chances for getting asylum in the European Union. But perhaps the words that Rutte said in this press statement were not half as interesting as what he didn’t say.

The following link contains the video broadcast of this press statement; very interesting stuff for everybody who masters Dutch. 

Here below, there is a translated version of PM Mark Rutte's statement to the press, accompanied by my comments:

Mark Rutte: Turkey takes back all irregular immigrants. This happens based upon a Greek-Turkish return transfer agreement, on which the international legislation is fully applicable. This plan starts on Sunday, March 20.

My comments: This paragraph is full of wishful thinking, in my humble opinion.

First, I don’t really expect the Turkish government to take back all irregular immigrants; especially not when these immigrants' whereabouts and their country of departure are not crystal clear.

Second, I can’t believe that this return transfer agreement [I don’t have a better translation for this expression – EL] is really fully compliant to international legislation and treaties, with respect to refugees. 

I think that the Prime Minister hopes(!) that this is true indeed, but my gutfeeling is that many lawyers cannot wait to start a test case in court, in order to find out whether this return transfer agreement is indeed legal or not.

Mark Rutte: Everybody who enters in Greece from Sunday, March 20th on, will be subject to this return mechanism. In return, the European Union is prepared to welcome one Syrian refugee from Turkey, against every illegal refugee that is taken back from the EU by Turkey, provided that he or she did not enter the EU earlier.
The relocation of these Syrian refugees takes place based upon earlier agreements between member states. We  as The Netherlands  will deliver our proportional contribution in this proces.

The message to refugees, who are willing to make the cross-over between Turkey and Greece: "Don’t do it!!! You pay a lot of money, take life-threatening risks and you will end up in Turkey eventually, where you will reside at the bottom of the list of refugees with access to the European Union!"

The message to the people who now reside at the borders between Macedonia and Greece: "go away there. Seek for refuge in the camps that Greece offers; not at the border where the humanitarian situation is awful, but in the special camps that have been arranged for that, as the route through the Western Balkan has been closed down!"

My comments: Roughly translated, this message from the Prime Minister and current chairman of the EU means: “We don’t want insubordinate refugees here. Actually, we only want to receive as few refugees as possible and than even less. We don’t care about what they are escaping from. IT’S THEIR PROBLEM AND NOT OURS. Let them stay at home or in Turkey and mind their own business, for crying out loud!!!

And so every refugee, who is willing and desperate enough to take the future for him and his family in his own hands at the risk of losing their lives, will be put at the bottom of the list as a punishment for his indecent behaviour.

Only refugees that ‘sit up and obey to their new bosses’, might get an invitation to enter the EU once... at our and Turkey’s discretion! 

They must wait and wait and wait in a country like Turkey, which is not per sé friendly territory to them, and must survive the hopelessness, boredom and despair of a refugee camp, without having an outlook towards a proper future. The EU doesn’t want people that are willing to fight for a future for themselves and their kids. It wants obedient refugees who stay in Turkey until eternity.

And then the things that the Prime Minister did not say:
  • He did not say anything about HOW to return these disobedient refugees to Turkey: by boat or by airplane and with or without the usage of (brutal) force?! Who knows?!
  • He did not mention anything about refugees from Egypt and Libya: will these also be “returned” to Turkey, even though they did not come from this country? 
  • Rutte did not mention anything about how the EU would help to solve the various problems of Greece, even though that country has been an economic mess for the last decade and currently has to deal with loads of refugees that have nowhere to go to, now that the borders of the Western Balkan route have all been closed. He didn’t talk about offering the Greeks some leeway; 
  • Rutte didn’t talk about the fact that closing down the borders between the Schengen states is wrong from an European point of view and that the Balkan bunch and Austria are playing the NIMBY game at the expense of Greece... And that these border close-downs are probably a violation of the Schengen treaty.
    • By simply ignoring this fact, Rutte actually supported this NIMBY behaviour by this group of countries, at the expense of Greece, and became partially responsible for the increasing loss of solidarity within the EU; 
  • He did not state whether the European Union – and ALL its member states – will indeed give refuge to the Syrian people that are handed over by the Turkish government, as part of this deal.

    Those earlier agreements were not exactly ironclad and the Eastern and Northern European countries are probably not willing to fulfil their part of the deal!
  • What Rutte only said was that The Netherlands would offer refuge for its proportion of the European deal; that is probably a quite limited percentage of the total number of incoming refugees. What happens with the rest? Who knows and who cares! 

On top of that, this deal leaves the refugees to the arbitrariness of the Turkish government: a government that has not exactly excelled in a humane treatment of all groups of people living in Turkey and Syria lately. Think about the recent Turkish bombardments of the Kurds in Syria and South-East Turkey and (probably also) their hostile stance against groups of people, who were originally behind the policy of Syrian president Bashir al-Assad. 

And what about refugees originating from Iraq and Afghanistan, with respect to entering the EU?! Have they suddenly become ‘fortune seekers’ without any right of being a refugee whatsoever? Or are they still genuinely fleeing from the mess that the Western armies and Russia have created over the last 25 – 35 years in their home countries, as war refugees?!

Mark Rutte: Irregular and uncontrolled sea crossings must be halted, so that the business model of human trafickers is demolished.

However, this returning of immigrants puts pressure on Turkey, as this country already offered refuge to many refugees during the past months and years. So next to the earlier agreed €3 billion in expense  payments to Turkey, the European Union is willing to make another reservation of money in 2018. 

That money won’t go directly to the Turkish government, but it will be put in projects and programs that will achieve that the accomodation issues for these refugees will actually be met: think about the UNHCR and the World Food Program, but also various other organizations.

My comments: I agree about the first sentence of Mark Rutte, as the business model of human traffickers and the gruesome loss of lives on the Mediterranean Sea is also something that I would like to stop.

What Mark Rutte does not tell, however, is HOW he wants to achieve that, other than hoping that the EU’s bribery of Turkey will achieve ironclad sea border controls in that country and a total dry out of the influx of refugees in the EU over the seas or via the Georgia / Russia route. That is wishful thinking at its worst.

And must we really believe that Turkey will wait until 2018 with collecting the next European payments (allegedly another €3 billion)? And that Turkey itself will not get one cent from this money, but that every cent will be handed over to the UN? Does PM Mark Rutte really think that the European community is that naive?!

Mark Rutte: We have spoken with Turkey about the liberalization of entrance visa for the EU and about reopening the negotiations regarding the accession criteria for a Turkish EU membership. We talked about speeding up this process, but that does not mean at all that these negotiations will be ‘smoothed out’. Turkey is in the driver’s seat with respect to necessary reforms. This means that this speeding up process requires additional efforts of Turkey.

The reopening of the negotiations upon the Turkish accession criteria with respect to the EU, does not mean that these negotiations will be ended successfully.

With these agreements with Turkey, the joint approach for the spring of 2016 is finished. Agreements have been made along the whole refugee route: Turkey, Greece and the Western Balkan... Based upon the key words: border control, good registration of refugees and ‘shelter in the region’.

My comments: This was the end of PM Mark Rutte’s brief press statement. ‘Everything is fine. We have it all under control! Please continue sleeping!’

Especially his fixed mantra of ‘offering shelter in the region’ has been thrown in yet again. Libanon, Jordan and Turkey are already bursting under the pressure of millions of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees, but who cares about that?! NIMBY-PM Mark Rutte has everything being taken care off!

And with these last statements Mark Rutte is either fooling Turkey or fooling the citizens of the European Union:
  • Either the Turks are allowed to run round in circles with the European Union membership as the proverbial carrot on a stick, dangling before their noses.

    A membership for which they are virtually without a chance actually , as the rest of Europe and especially Greece and Cyprus are not in favour at all of a Turkish membership;

  • Or the European citizens are subject to an enormous sham, in which the Turkish membership of the EU is already a done deal and the European leaders are just going through the motions, regarding the investigation into the current Turkish, political situation and the execution on the agreements with respect to the accession terms to EU membership. 

Please pick a side...

Perhaps, there is even the third way in which the EU and Turkey both know that an EU membership for Turkey is a dead end road, but both keep up appearances for political, domestic purposes. Possible?! Perhaps! Hard to believe?! You betcha!

Everybody knows that Turkey is turning more and more into an ‘enlightened(?) dictatorship’, instead of an increasingly democratic republic. Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has the country firmly in his grasp and has an increasingly tight grip on the opposition and the (religious) minorities in Turkey: in daily life, as well as politics and media. 

While the moral majority is strongly in his favour, growing groups are suffering from his harsh politics and the atmosphere of war and terrorism that is clouding the Turkish daily life since a few months.

President Erdoğan is not the man to openly run after the European carrot, as he seems both too intelligent and too proud for that (and perhaps too vain). 

Besides that, Erdoğan knows that he has Europe by ‘the nuts’, as Europe and the EU need him much more – in order to solve the refugee crisis – than he needs Europe or the EU himself. Turkey has a pivotal position between Europe and Asia (i.e. the Middle East) and it is the single access point to the Black Sea. 

So either Rutte is not telling the whole truth in his statement about Turkey, or Erdoğan is easily seeing through his sham and tries to treat the European Union as a big, fat, milky cash cow: only €6 billion in refugee payments and no money for Turkey and the Turkish government? Really?! Are you that naive?! 

At least a lot of Turks will be happy with the upcoming visa liberalization, as that makes it much easier for Turkish people to visit their family in Germany, France, The Netherlands and Belgium. But whether that is enough or not for President Erdoğan to be satisfied with this deal?! I have serious doubts.

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