Merkel’s charm offensive in Turkey

The European Union has sought to strike a deal with Turkey to halt the refugee influx into Europe. Emily Hohler reports.

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Merkel and Davutoglu: driving a hard bargain on refugees

There is a "growing urgency" in Brussels to strike a deal with Turkey to halt the Syrian refugee influx into Europe, as Syrian leader Assad's assault on the opposition stronghold of Aleppo threatens to drive a new wave of up to 3.5 million refugees, says Matthew Holehouse in The Daily Telegraph. Syria's neighbours Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have taken around five million refugees, with Turkey taking two million so far.

An EU package agreed last week in Brussels "looks pretty desperate", says David Gardner in the FT. The "sweeteners" on offer to Ankara include the reopening of stalled EU accession talks, the liberalisation of EU visa rules for Turks, and around €3bn in aid (about half of what Turkey has already spent on the crisis). This marks a new chapter in an "unedifying narrative" that has seen the EU go from embracing Turkey, to rejecting it as "too big, too poor and too Muslim", to this "form of self-interested re-engagement in extremis".

Turkey has been in the "human rights doghouse" for years and the charm offensive marks a dramatic reversal offortune, agrees Alex Barker, also in the FT. Yet Turkish officials are "driving a hard bargain". A day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with her Turkish counterparts in Istanbul to firm up the deal, the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that Turkey will not serve as a "concentration camp" for exiled Syrians and "pressed for new concessions", says Charles Bremner in The Times.

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With a general election in November, his words were partly aimed at "reassuring voters that Turkey was not selling out to Europe". As Holehouse notes, most Turksare opposed to Syrian refugees settling in the country. Without a victory for his AKP party, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would not be able to "implement the Turkish side of the bargain".

Merkel is also trying to rescue her party's ratings, which fell to a new low of 37% in a recent poll, says David Charter in The Times. Amid unofficial forecasts that 1.5 million migrants could enter Germany this year (the official forecast is 800,000), towns across the nation are saying they cannot cope. Her visit to Turkey and plans to put asylum seekers in controversial border "transit zones" are signs that Merkel has been "stung into tougher action".

For a chancellor with a reputation as "shrewd and calculating", and rarely out of touch with the public mood, Merkel has acted with an uncharacteristic lackof caution, says Christian Schnee inThe Guardian. Could it be that after a decade at the helm she is looking for an "exit strategy"? The refugee crisis has given her an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy, while "engendering a potentially lethal storm on the home front Going down with flying colours for a worthy cause" may be just what she is aiming for.

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.