From the other side of the wall

The fence Greece has decided to build on its Turkish border to keep would-be immigrants out will also be yet another obstacle between Turkey and the EU, argues the chief editor of the Istanbul paper Sabah.

Published on 17 January 2011 at 11:48

Turkey’s first reactions toGreek plans to put up a wall along part of the border between the two countries was extremely cautious and discreet. Nonetheless, we think it is wrong to believe that decision is only a sovereign Greek domestic matter. In fact, the wall or barbed-wire fence to be built along the River Maritsa [Meriç in Turkish] will inevitably affect Turkey and damage its international image.

The wall running along the southern border of the United States, which the Greek authorities cite as their inspiration, has done absolutely nothing for Mexico. Quite the contrary: it has relegated that country to the status of an impotent pariah state trying desperately to export its economic and social problems to the other side of the border. As for the Palestinians, they are humiliated by the walls put up on both the Israeli and the Egyptian sides, which condemn them to live in an open-air prison.

Does Europe end on the banks of the Maritsa?

The Maritsa River delimits our border not only to Greece, but also to the European Union. Building such a fence amounts to putting an insurmountable obstacle between us and the EU that will reinforce the concept of the Schengen Area, a concrete symbol of restricted movement in Europe. Over and above the difficulties of obtaining a visa to visit the EU, a supplementary physical obstacle is being placed between the EU and Turkey – which makes this wall not just a Greek problem, but our problem too.

Moreover, building such a fence along the Maritsa will, unfortunately, give physical expression to Sarkozy’s vision of Europe’s borders – a vision that was rejected by a “reflection group” headed by Spanish ex-prime minister Felipe González. In a report (entitled Project Europe 2030) submitted in May 2010, the group explained that it is not its geography, as the French president claims, but “its values that constitute the boundaries of the European Union". Putting up such a wall would send out the message that Europe ends on the banks of the Maritsa.

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