Turkey’s decision not to keep the refugees anymore in their country may create a new refugee crisis for the European Union if the war in Syria indefinitely continues and the EU reacts slowly. However, it seems that now the EU is better prepared for the refugees than it was five years ago when only a few top politicians expected such numbers of refugees coming into Europe.
First, Frontex is much stronger than five years ago. The EU has understood that the working external border is essential if one wants to keep the Schengen zone and other liberties inside the EU. One should remember that the Schengen arrangement nearly collapsed as the member states were sending (or allowing) refugees to enter other countries. Now, the member states, including Estonia, are supporting Greece and Bulgaria as those are the countries facing an imminent influx of refugees from Turkey. One could say that the quota system is dead, but the solidarity is still there as the member states are willing to provide assistance to strengthen the EU external border.
Secondly, and this is the most important – mainstream parties in the EU countries have realized that dealing with immigration is not something to be left to the populist parties. It may sound cynical but dealing with immigration is also about power. If you don’t pay enough attention to the refugees, you lose votes. It has also highlighted to the European Commission that, in order to keep citizens’ support, it must support the frontline states. Thus, it is no wonder that the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed her support to Greece. One should remember that Greece was seen as the troublemaker in the EU not just when it came to the financial crisis but also to the refugee crisis back in 2015.
Of course, at this point, it is too early to speak about a solution. The key country here is Turkey – it is the country who hosts nearly 4 million refugees, but it is also a country who wages war. This means that the EU has to negotiate on two fronts – how to handle the looming refugee crisis with Turkey and how to force Turkey to end the hostilities in the Idlib province. Unfortunately, when it comes to the latter, the keys for the solution are not in Brussels but in Moscow. All in all, the new Commission has to undergo a harsh test in terms of common foreign and security policy.