EU foreign ministers meet today in an extraordinary session in Zagreb, Croatia, to discuss Turkey’s decision to open its border with Europe and allow the passage of refugees fleeing escalating violence in Syria.
This meeting comes in the wake of bombardments between Turkish and Syrian forces in the Idlib Province, which have driven nearly a million refugees to flee into Turkey. By opening the border, Turkish President Recep Erdogan hopes to force Europe to share the burden of hosting refugees or send more aid commensurate with recent migrant inflows from Syria. The country already hosts 3.6 million displaced Syrians, and Erdogan has announced Turkey cannot take in any more without increased European support.
While European leaders are wary of another migrant crisis and the renewed populist backlash it may cause, they do not want to appear coerced by Ankara. They may, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested, look for a ceasefire in Syria and the demarcation of a refugee safe zone along the Turkish border. According to Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok, a no-fly zone over Idlib may be the best way to ensure this outcome. However, as the US has already ruled out the measure, it is not yet clear which European power would enforce such a ban.
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James is an analyst on the Current Developments Team, where he specialises in European and Indian politics. He is a regularly contributor to the Daily Brief