BV: What type of assistance and help does Greece hope for? And what is the risk of this crisis spilling over towards Macedonia?
VKF: For the time being, money only. This also is not certain. But if money ever arrived in Greek coffers, we won’t be in a position to know the strings attached to them. State elites do not disclose these types of deals.
Many things also depend on how Greek diplomacy would be able to capitalise on the conflicts taking place within other elites in NATO and EU countries, and especially conflicts within the Turkish elite. It is wrong to believe that the Turkish state is a coherent organism without contradictions. For instance, there is a powerful anti-NATO and pro-Russian/Eurasianist faction within the Turkish apparatus pushing for a security alliance with Moscow. Many people are unaware of this.
So – I hope you understand – I cannot answer with precision the first part of your question as many things depend on unpredictable moves from the various agencies involved. As regards the position of North Macedonia, I have a straightforward answer. The refugees do not want to stay in Greece, Macedonia or anywhere in the Balkans. Only core EU countries, especially Germany and Austria, want that. But the situation will be critical for North Macedonia and all Balkan states if there is no agreement between Turkey and Russia over Syria, and Greece and Bulgaria continue to block off the selection/de-selection of migrants/refugees by refusing to manage an orderly passage of them from their territories and in agreement with all the neighbouring countries as I propose.
BV: What would be the effect of this migrant crisis on the Greek-Turkish relations and on the relations of the EU member states, and the EU as a whole?
In my view, it all depends on whether Russia and Turkey find any middle ground for cooperation over the Syrian issue. Even if they strike a deal, this will sort matters out only in the short-term. Russia will continue backing Assad’s regime; the Kurdish issue will remain unresolved; and remnants of Al Qaeda will be operating in Syria and elsewhere.
There are reports that the Turkish militia fighting in Libya are not Turkish soldiers but various splinter groups from Al Qaeda that Turkey has armed. We should not forget that Turkey has experienced massive growth over the last two decades and is considered, together with Brazil, South Africa and other peripheral countries, as a new developing, middle-income country. Turkey’s economy is currently experiencing an overcapacity and export of capital is paramount. Turkish business and banks are not only active in Central Asia, Middle East and the Balkans, but also in Africa. Turkey has drafted its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement with Libya at the expense of Greek interests. This is not because Turkey is bad and the others good, but because the country is over-heated and seeks expansion and jurisdiction beyond its borders.
War is and remains, primarily, an imperialist affair, whether regional or global and it is in this sense that Turkey’s action should be opposed and thwarted. Now, if conflict breaks out between Greece and Turkey, then one eventuality is that it remains localised, lasting only a few days, yet without solving any of the aforementioned issues, including that of refugees.
It may also involve more and more states in the region and more globally, in which case we are talking about a total disaster that I don’t want even to think about. Needless to say, the EU would cease to exist in the form and shape it has today. So back to 1914, the unthinkable future!
BV: Can one make a comparison between today’s developments and the 2015/16 migrant crisis, both from a humanitarian and a security perspective. Also, you mentioned the use of refugees by Turkey as a weapon to strike deals. Can you say more?
VKF: Yes, I can and I also believe a comparison can be made. The first refugee crisis came amidst a serious crisis in the Eurozone, which was somewhat sealed with the capitulation of Syriza, following the referendum of July 2015. At the time, as everybody was busy with economics, neither Greece nor the Europeans could conceive of the refugee problem as a serious humanitarian and security issue of tremendous importance for the future of Europe and the Balkans.
But Erdogan’s Turkey knew, because Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian crisis dates back to the beginnings of the crisis in 2010-11. I must say that various western agencies played a very malicious and totally inept role in Turkey, trying to disrupt Erdogan’s project to smash the Kemalist apparatus, a power struggle that Erdogan won, strengthening his authoritarian grip over the state and society.
Everybody should understand that the West is not innocent in what the Erdogan regime has become in Turkey. Erdogan and his ruling group were always conscious of the fact that the refugees could be weaponised in a hybrid warfare against Europe in order to serve Turkey’s power-politics ends in the region.
Erdogan also sends refugees to Cyprus, the northern part of which has been occupied by Turkey since August 1974, following two consecutive invasions of the island. The (Greek) Cypriot government in the southern part has recently closed the crossings that separate the Turkish sector from the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, the pretext being the Corona virus. So overall, one can easily diagnose a continuity on the part of Turkey as regards the weaponization of the refugee issue, whereas the Europeans began only recently to come to terms with this.
The agreement between Germany and Turkey in 2016, which was against international law and human rights, failed simply because no agreement can capture and block the political will and determination of a belligerent state to use unarmed population movements on the ground to serve its own power-political ends.