20 years of destruction and earthquake diplomacy

Diplomatic highlights immediately after the earthquake



Weekly politics publication focusing on Turkey, city agendas, and international policy.

After the February 6 earthquakes that caused devastation in 10 cities in Turkey, inadequacies and problems persist both in the earthquake zone and in diplomacy. In this article, I will focus on positions that contrast with the social support Turkey has received from other countries, especially the statement made by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on February 12.

If the devastation caused by the earthquake and the despair we find ourselves in as a society indicate that the 20-year AK Party government has ignored one of the most important phenomena in the geography of our country, the recent developments in diplomacy show how isolated Turkey has become in the world arena at the state level.

"The EU is overcrowded. So, good deals should be made with Turkey"

Speaking two days after the earthquake, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "We are now racing against time to save lives. Turkey and Syria can count on the EU." Two hours after the first earthquake, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism deployed search and rescue teams, tents and mattresses, and €3 million in emergency humanitarian aid to improve government response.

Speaking on a television program a few days after the earthquake, Belgian Prime Minister De Croo emphasized that 5.5 million people were displaced in Turkey and Syria, and that they needed to make "good deals" with Turkey in order to prevent a new wave of migration to Europe. The statements of Prime Minister De Croo raised suspicion at a time when there was a sense that the EU and its member states were moved by humanitarian sentiments and values, as they acted immediately after the earthquakes.


Noting that the EU has become even more crowded after the refugees from Ukraine, De Croo's idea of preventing a new wave of migration and reaching an agreement to keep migrants in Turkey has a basis in fact.

Since the readmission

One of the -good- deals hinted at by Prime Minister De Croo was the EU-Turkey negotiations in 2015-2016, whereby Syrian refugees would stay within Turkey's borders and Turkey would receive €3 billion from the EU to provide the necessary assistance and conditions for the refugees. Despite promises, such as a new Customs Union agreement and EU visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, we did not see any progress other than the funding for refugees.

This statement by the Belgian Prime Minister days after the disaster is not only ill-timed, but also a severe consequence of the AK Party government's past foreign policy. In other words, we see that the decisions made by Western states to prioritize their own regional and national interests by instrumentalizing human rights, which were accepted by the AK Party government to save the day, are now being proposed to AK Party again, under more difficult conditions.

Fast and easy visa

On the other hand, Turkish citizens living in EU member states or in the UK may be able to bring relatives who lost their homes in the earthquake to their home country. In some countries, citizens are pressing for visa facilitation for Turkish and Syrian earthquake victims.

As BBC Turkish correspondent Yusuf Özkan reports from The Hague, Germany and Belgium, two of the countries with the highest number of Turkish citizens in Europe, are planning a "fast-track" visa process for earthquake victims that will not be as quick and easy as it should be. One of the biggest problems is that the number of documents normally required for a Schengen visa has not been reduced and earthquake victims' documents have been buried under the rubble.

Petitions to parliament in the UK

Another interesting case on the visa issue comes from the United Kingdom. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, parliament was flooded with petitions for privileges for Turkish and Syrian citizens. While some petitions with general statements such as "The government should launch an emergency program for citizens affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria" were rejected, others were accepted and posted on the parliamentary website for signatures.

One of the most signed petitions proposes to "create a Turkish Family Program visa for people made homeless by the earthquake." The petition was spearheaded by a Turkish man who lost many family members in the earthquake and is trying to bring his 16-year-old cousin to the UK with him. At the time of writing, 76,404 of the 100,000 signatures needed to submit the petition to the government have been collected.

While a domestic solution for the thousands of citizens who have lost their homes in the 10 cities is an ideal scenario, the week-long stalemate of the state organization and the government’s failure to solve such an urgent and massive problem are discouraging. Citizens looking for alternatives are unable to obtain the necessary documents for visas in the countries where their relatives live. Although the fear of a "migration wave" seems unlikely in the current situation, if Turkish foreign policy had been better managed, visa facilitation for Turkey could have been achieved by removing some of the documentation requirements, just as it was done for Ukraine after the war.

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Weekly politics publication focusing on Turkey, city agendas, and international policy.



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Weekly politics publication focusing on Turkey, city agendas, and international policy.