[NACIONAL] ŽELJANA ZOVKO: THE EUROPEAN UNION IS HELD HOSTAGE BY THE TURKISH PRESIDENT ERDOGAN
Nacional, 3 March 2020
(translated from Croatian)
Zagreb hosts the Interparliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy. The Conference is attended, among others, by the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandroković and the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, David McAllister. In the context of the parliamentary dimension of the Croatian Presidency of the Council, the Conference is attended by the Member of the European Parliament and EPP Vice-coordinator in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Željana Zovko. Within her parliamentary activities, Zovko actively contributes to the Parliament’s relations with the region and is a member of the Parliamentary working group on the Western Balkans and part of the delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.
Nacional.hr asked Zovko to comment on the migrants’ crisis and opening of the Turkish border, which allowed thousands of migrants an attempt to enter the European Union.
NACIONAL: What is the political goal of the Turkish President Erdogan?
Zovko: No one knows that, but the President Erdogan. Considering that his political party lost the local elections in all bigger Turkish towns, Erdogan’s domestic political stage and his position are far from brilliant. Such a big campaign suits him, because it arouses the Turkish public, which is extremely resistant to the millions of refuges in their territory. It was a huge sacrifice to accept and accommodate more than 3.5 million of refugees; the citizens of Turkey have been struggling with this problem for years and now don’t want to carry that burden by themselves any more. A balance should have been found for this situation. As the President Erdogan’s political status is not stable, he may make use of these turbulences to polarise the political scene and to win over the positive public opinion.
NACIONAL: Is the European Union a hostage to the Turkish President Erdogan?
Zovko: That is right. The European Union is held hostage. The European Union must protect its borders in a proper manner. It is not easy to frustrate the waves of migrants with such a strong and well-developed human trafficking industry, additionally supported by the statements of the Turkish officials. Human trafficking is certainly the most attractive business at the moment. Each act of providing support to human trafficking, giving an impetus to mass movement of migrants, who may not expect to be accepted and considered as asylum-seekers, is considered a crime act.
NACIONAL: The factual status is that many refugees are young, male economic migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, younger than 30, without documents. How is this problem to be tackled?
Zovko: Europe must primarily take care of its security and peace. Europe must protect its borders. Europe must firmly show that its borders may not be crossed by force. I believe that Europe is prepared to do this properly. Frontex must be further strengthened. We must help Greece and Bulgaria by all means, because the external borders of the Union are protected at the Greek and Bulgarian borders. If unprotected, their borders expose a huge area of the Western Balkans, which is extremely sensitive and prone to additional instabilities and polarisation of the society. I prefer to call this phenomenon intrusion rather than migration.
NACIONAL: What may be expected from the visit of the Union officials to Greece?
Zovko: A strong message is expected – that the border will be protected. Additionally, a strong diplomatic offensive towards the Turkish top officials is expected with the goal to discuss the actual issues, to reason with them. Europe must not allow to be dragged into the conflict in Syria. That is not a European conflict. Perhaps Erdogan has been doing this with the purpose to drag the European Union into the conflict in Syria. That is one of the issues to be discussed at the Zagreb Conference. We expect Turkey to come to senses. Turkey needs Europe, Turkish citizens want to be accepted by the European Union. We’ll see how this partnership is going to develop. It is now up to the President Erdogan to give up blackmailing, because we all know what is a response to blackmailing. No one accepts blackmailing, neither will Europe.”