Migrant crisis: EU press concern at Turkey deal

Bild online front page Image copyright Bild
Image caption "Hoping for Merkel": The online edition of German tabloid Bild features a crying child refugee at the Greek-Macedonian border

EU press commentators have been voicing their unease at the prospect of making a deal on refugees with Turkey, just as its government took over the country's main opposition paper, Zaman.

An online editorial by German tabloid Bild accuses EU leaders of planning to "spend billions to support and even accelerate Turkey's path towards becoming an authoritarian religious state based on violence, just to ensure that the regime there takes the refugees off our hands".

In France, a commentary in the L'Alsace daily says that while Europe seems "condemned" to work with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it should remember that his takeover of the newspaper violates the "most sacred rules of democracy".

The EU must not "lose its dignity", it says, but Berlin's Tageszeitung says it believes this will happen.

"Building Fortress Europe is clearly more important than Europe's fundamental values," writer Eric Bonse says.

He goes on to accuse Chancellor Angela Merkel of betraying previous promises not to allow the widespread closure of borders to migrants, although reports on Monday suggested she is actually among those resisting the current EU plan to shut down the Balkans route for refugees.

Die Welt, among others, quotes her as saying: "We cannot accept that anything is closed."

'Smack in the face'

An article in Berlin's Tagesspiegel says Turkey looks set to demand a heavy price for its co-operation, in the form of a lot of money, rapid action on visa-free travel, and progress on the country's stalled EU integration.

"This would not be a problem if the Erdogan regime did not frequently prove itself to be incompatible with Western ideas about human rights and freedoms in terms of its understanding of democracy and its rather medieval view of women," it argues.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption German media report that Ms Merkel is resisting the closure of the Balkan route for refugees

It adds that the seizure of Zaman in particular is a "smack in the face" for Ms Merkel.

But an editorial in Austria's Kurier says Europe has no choice but to be pragmatic.

"We need Turkey," the paper's editor-in-chief writes, although he adds that "we should not be stopped from criticising Turkey's offensive disregard for freedom of the press and human rights".

In Spain's El Pais, Belgian journalist Beatrice Delvaux says Europe faces a fundamental ethical choice of who to follow: the German chancellor and her liberal refugee policy or the hard line advocated by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

She compares it to the choice posed by the fascist persecutions of the 1930s.

"In Europe today, you cannot be both Merkel and Orban," she writes. "It is one or the other, you have to choose."

"What Europe do we want?" she asks.

"One that thinks and acts collectively, or one that thinks primarily in terms of particular interests, even at the risk of blowing up the European construct?"

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