Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Later today on the Member Feed, I’ll post more details of my business plan (as opposed to the donation mechanism) for investor-funded journalism.
So. Remember how all this started? It started because I was in a fit of pique about a little-known New York newspaper that asked me to write a piece about the attacks in Brussels, then spiked what I sent them in favor of this article. But I did, happily, find a good home for my article at National Review. They published it with a great Roman Genn illustration:
Paris — When trying to make sense of recent events in Europe, memory is useful. During the Cold War, Europe was terrorized by now-forgotten murderous far-left and far-right terrorist groups. Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and Turkey, in particular, were turned into abattoirs. These terrorists, too, were in thrall to a utopian and radical vision. They had a particular effect on Europe, one we should consider as we enter the new Cold War. The Soviets hoped to use these groups to spread chaos in Europe and break up NATO: The intended effect of the terror was to radicalize and destabilize the terrorized population. Russia is poised to profit similarly from today’s terrorism.
Some of the groups remain active. Turkey’s Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, or DHKP/C, bombed the U.S. embassy in Ankara in 2013. It has a long, bloody history of more than 400 attacks against Turkish and NATO targets. The DHKP/C, like ISIS today, became a Belgian problem, and one that the Belgian authorities dealt with poorly. In 1996, the DHKP/C assassinated Özdemir Sabanci, a well-known Turkish captain of industry, and two of his associates, in Istanbul. Fehriye Erdal, a female DHKP/C terrorist who had infiltrated Sabanci’s building as a cleaner, enabled the murderers to enter his office.
The headquarters of this DHKP/C group were in Belgium, where its members operated freely. It took several years for the Belgian authorities to bring them to trial. In 2006, Fehriye Erdal was convicted. In principle, she was under the 24-hour surveillance of the Sûreté de l’Etat (the Belgian state-security service). But hours before her sentencing, she disappeared, and she was never recaptured.
This was typical. Belgium has long ignored extremist groups in return for their implicit agreement not to target Belgium. It is often no secret at all. In 1996, Brussels released twelve members of Algeria’s Islamist organization Groupe Islamique Armé. In Europe, the GIA chiefly targeted France; in 1995, it bombed the Saint-Michel metro station in Paris, killing seven and wounding 117. The Belgian government reputedly made a deal with the GIA to ignore its activities on Belgian soil in exchange for immunity from attack. Understandably enraged, the French minister of the interior, Charles Pasqua, accused Belgium of lacking resolve.
In 2002, a Belgian parliamentary commission’s investigation into the Sûreté revealed that it had allowed the Belgian Muslim community — numbering over 350,000 — to be heavily infiltrated by Islamic extremists. Thirty of Belgium’s 300 mosques, the report said, were run by fundamentalists. Belgian schools, prisons, hospitals, and sports centers had become jihadi recruiting grounds. The report warned that they were creating a theocracy within the state. The head of the Sûreté resigned upon the publication of the report, which concluded that the Sûreté had adopted a passive attitude toward Muslim extremists because it had found no indication that they would attack Belgian targets. It also indicated that the Sûreté had been understaffed and inadequately funded for over a decade and that many retiring officers had gone unreplaced. …
So, in light of that, here’s another update from the brave old world. I don’t know how closely you’re following the details of the Germany’s deal with Turkey to handle the refugee influx. It’s astonishingly cynical, but given the way some parts of the German public have responded to the enormity of the job ahead of them, probably necessary. No responsible German leader would take the risk of encouraging that impulse.
Under the agreement, “irregular migrants” who arrive in Greece from Turkey will be sent back. For every Syrian refugee returned, another Syrian refugee will — theoretically — be flown from Turkey to the EU. The number to be accepted is still under debate, but 72,000 seems to be the opening bid. They’d then be distributed throughout Europe, with every member state required to take refugees according to its size and capabilities. Brussels agreed to provide the Turkish government with money — a lot of it, mostly from Germany — to cover the costs of looking after the refugees.
The idea here is to break the business model of the human traffickers, and in principle it’s a sensible one. The problem with it in practice is that Merkel’s negotiating partner is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Hence the “astonishingly cynical” part, because this deal requires pretending that all is peachy-keen in Turkey, that Erdoğan’s a normal fellow, and that Turkey’s a safe country for refoulement — non-refoulement being integral to the 1951 Refugee Convention:
no state “shall expel or return (‘refouler’ in French) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
This means, in effect, that everyone in Europe has to pretend that a) they don’t know that Turkey is pushing refugees right back into Syria; and b) Turkey’s such a great place, with such a terrific human rights record, that it should expeditiously be admitted to the EU. This video explains the facts of the deal quite accurately:
Basically, Erdoğan has Merkel right where he wants her. Give us money and let Turkey into the EU, or deal with your refugees (and your Nazis) by yourself. The “give us money” part is entirely fair: Turkey’s been dealing with 2.5 million Syrians, and I doubt the $6 billion pledge covers even half of the total cost to Turkey of feeding and housing them, no less dealing with the massive social dislocation that has ensued and will continue.
It’s the “Let Turkey into the EU” part that’s disturbing. Now, to be clear: I favor that. I think Turkey should be admitted to the EU immediately — as soon as it meets the Copenhagen criteria and complies with the EU acquis. Nothing could be better for Turkey than to make the reforms required to comply with it, especially in matters related to Chapters 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and Chapter 24 (Justice, Freedom, and Security). Turkey is in fact capable of doing it and would benefit hugely from it. What it wouldn’t benefit from at all — nor would anyone in Europe — is the EU pretending that Turkey is now making progress toward those ends, or even trying to.
Turkey has no chance of doing that so long as Erdoğan’s in power. He has no motivation to give up power, and a very great motivation to keep it. So inevitably what will happen is come June 2016, the date on which Turkey has promised to fulfil 72 conditions in exchange for the right of its citizens to visa-free travel in the EU, those conditions won’t be fulfilled. Turkey’s human rights situation will be none improved, nor will the safety of the refugees returned to Turkey be assured. But if he’s not given what he wants, Erdoğan has quite explicitly warned his counterparts what he’ll do:
“We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses … So how will you deal with refugees if you don’t get a deal? Kill the refugees?” Erdoğan was quoted in the text as telling the EU officials.
It also quoted him as demanding 6 billion euros over two years. When Juncker made clear only half that amount was on offer, he said Turkey didn’t need the EU’s money anyway.
The EU eventually agreed a 3 billion euro fund to improve conditions for refugees in Turkey, revive Ankara’s long-stalled accession talks and accelerate visa-free travel for Turks in exchange for Ankara curbing the numbers of migrants pouring into neighboring Greece.
In heated exchanges, Erdoğan often interrupted Juncker and Tusk, the purported minutes show, accusing the EU of deceiving Turkey and Juncker personally of being disrespectful to him.
The Turkish leader was also quoted as telling Juncker, a former prime minister of tiny Luxembourg, to show more respect to the 80-million-strong Turkey. “Luxembourg is just like a little town in Turkey,” he was quoted as saying.
The tense dialogue highlighted the depth of mutual suspicion at a time when the EU is banking on Turkish help to alleviate its worst migration crisis since World War Two.
So, rather than the EU democratizing Turkey, the EU will be Erdoğanized.
Merkel’s in an exceptionally bad bargaining position because immigrants went wilding on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, neo-Nazi goons in Germany have been torching refugee shelters (v. v. bad); and throughout Europe, Putin-favoring nationalist parties have taken to the streets to protest the “Islamization” of Europe. Merkel got a bruising in the German state elections. The conviction that a million Syrian refugees have the power to Islamize Europe is, if nothing else, innumerate; but the popular reaction to the refugee influx is no trivial matter, and it’s forced Merkel, ironically, into a deal that truly will compromise — and Erdoğanize, if not Islamize — Europe’s values.
Don’t believe me? Meet the German comedian Jan Böhmermann. (Language warning, and it gets especially vulgar at the end, but there’s enough of political significance here that I think it’s worth watching anyway.) The video’s a parody of the German band Rammstein, who I wrote about in Menace in Europe:
The initial reference to November 9th is an allusion to Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. The clip of Frauke Petry, the leading light of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) — a party that recently swam up to challenge Merkel’s refugee policy — illustrates the “authoritarian nationalist dorks.”
Böhmermann doesn’t just make fun of American and European populists, though. Here we have him singing “V for Varoufakis,” which might give you some insight into why the peoples of the EU seem unable constructively to cooperate to solve their problems, because this pretty much sums up Germany’s bitterness about Greek finance minister “Walking debt” Varoufakis and his demand for ever-more multi-billion-euro bailouts; and the sentiment is entirely reciprocated on the Greek side:
In this spirit, Böhmermann also sang a little ditty about Tayyip Erdoğan:
In the part that shows Merkel shaking Erdogan’s hand in his neo-Ottoman pleasure-palace, the lyrics say, “Be nice to him, since he’s holding all the cards.” I guess Böhmermann didn’t grasp just how true this really was: Erdoğan’s crackerjack Emergency Anti-Satirist Unit immediately leapt into action and lodged an official complaint about the video, which it deemed slanderous.
The German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman replied as you’d expect: “Political satire in Germany is, of course, protected and therefore there is neither a necessity, nor a possibility, for the government to take action.” Quite normal.
Boehmermann, as any self-respecting Westerner would, doubled down. He patiently explained to Erdoğan — on the air — the legal difference between satire and slander. Slander, for example, would be reciting a poem, such as the one he’d composed for this educational occasion, calling Erdoğan a goat-pleasurer (he used a more Germanic phrasing) who watched child porn while kicking Kurds and beating young girls while wearing a rubber mask. Now that, he explained, would be slanderous.
Erdoğan went berserk. “The Foreign Ministry,” reported The Local, “conducted the assessment in an emergency meeting after their Turkish counterparts expressed serious displeasure at the poem.” Remember, they’re worried this Turkish goat-pleasurer is about to scupper the deal Europe needs to keep Germans from voting for Nazis, after which it’ll be at most ten minutes before Obersturmbannführer Petry drives the 6th Panzer Division straight through Antwerp — so they have to take this goat-pleasurer seriously.
Thus the day after the show, the station’s director of programs, Norbert Himmler, said the “limits to irony and satire were clearly exceeded.” The video of the poem was removed from their website. Merkel personally called Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu to apologize. She agreed the poem was a “deliberate insult.” And what do you know, it turns out that there is an obscure law on the German books that may used be prosecute Boehmermann. Here’s the German Criminal Code:
Defamation of organs and representatives of foreign states
- Whosoever insults a foreign head of state, or, with respect to his position, a member of a foreign government who is in Germany in his official capacity, or a head of a foreign diplomatic mission who is accredited in the Federal territory shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine, in case of a slanderous insult to imprisonment from three months to five years.
- If the offence was committed publicly, in a meeting or through the dissemination of written materials (section 11(3)) Section 200 shall apply. An application for publication of the conviction may also be filed by the prosecution service.
So it looks as if Böhmermann may very well be prosecuted. In Germany. For making fun of the goat-pleasuring Turkish president.
Two morals to this story. First: The only way to guarantee freedom of expression is with a US-style constitution. If you make any law abridging the freedom of speech, sooner or later, that’s how it will be used. (NB: This is how we recently dealt with this kind of nonsense in America.)
Second: It’s all very well for European nationalists to insist they don’t want their country to be Islamized, but if in the process of recoiling from Syrian refugees they get themselves Erdoğanized, instead — or Putinized, for that matter — it will be their own stupid, short-sighted fault. And it will be a lot worse.Published in