Guest Host: Tom Gjelten

A general view of the group photo taken during The European Council Meeting In Brussels held on March 7.  EU leaders are meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels, to discuss the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, as thousands of migrants remain stranded in Greece after borders along the Balkan route to Germany are closed.

A general view of the group photo taken during The European Council Meeting In Brussels held on March 7. EU leaders are meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels, to discuss the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, as thousands of migrants remain stranded in Greece after borders along the Balkan route to Germany are closed.

Thirteen thousand refugees are currently trapped at the closed border between Greece and Macedonia. Yesterday, European leaders met with the prime minister of Turkey in a mini summit aimed at addressing the migrant crisis. The EU wants Turkey to help reduce the flow of migrants into Europe. Turkey wants more money in exchange for cooperating, plus visa-free travel for its citizens. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pressing for an agreement that would preserve her open-door refugee policy, Austria has closed its border and Britain says it might leave the EU altogether. Guest host Tom Gjelten and guests discuss the ongoing migrant crisis and what it means for the future of Europe.


  • Paul Danahar Washington bureau chief, BBC; author of "The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring"
  • Frances Burwell Vice president, European Union and Special Initiatives, the Atlantic Council.
  • Gordon Repinski Senior correspondent, Der Spiegel
  • Deborah Ball Italy bureau chief, The Wall Street Journal


  • 10:06:54

    MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR sitting in for Diane Rehm. 28 European leaders had a mini summit yesterday with the Turkish prime minister. They're trying to solve the migrant crisis, which is becoming a humanitarian and political nightmare. Joining me in the studio to talk about the summit in Brussels, the latest on thousands of refugees trapped at the Greek border and what it all means for the future of the European Union, Paul Danahar of the BBC, Frances Burwell of The Atlantic Council and Gordon Repinski of the German magazine Der Spiegel.

  • 10:07:28

    MR. TOM GJELTENOn the phone, from Rome, Italy, we have Deborah Ball of The Wall Street Journal and a good day to all of you.

  • 10:07:35

    MR. PAUL DANAHARGood morning.

  • 10:07:35

    MS. FRANCES BURWELLGood morning.

  • 10:07:35

    MR. GORDON REPINSKIGood morning.

  • 10:07:37

    GJELTENThis may be the biggest European story in more than 20 years and you may want to share your own thoughts about it. What do you think should be done and does America have a role to play? Call us at 1-800-433-8850. Email us, Our email -- our Twitter handle, rather, is @drshow. You can also, of course, reach us on Facebook. Paul, this big meeting in Brussels yesterday. There was a lot at stake. The European leaders met with Turkish prime minister. It went on longer than was expected. What do we know about what came of it?

  • 10:08:19

    DANAHARThis is basically a win-win lose. A win for the EU, a win for Turkey and a lose for those people that made that journey across those choppy seas to try and get refugee status. What basically they agreed was that all migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey would be sent back, regardless of their nationality and for each Syrian sent back, a Syrian already in Turkey at a refugee camp would be allowed into the EU.

  • 10:08:45

    DANAHARSo it also meant that they would give a big chunk of money to the Turks who are struggling under the weight of all these refugees and the cost of keeping them. And promises to speed up the whole kind of Turkey accession into Europe. So I mean, it's basically Turkey pretty much getting what it wanted and the EU showing how vulnerable it feels, how nervous it feels about what's going to come in the summer and desperately needing some kind of plan to be able to sell to their home nations.

  • 10:09:18

    GJELTENYou're making it sound like it was a done deal, like there was an actual agreement. Was it that...

  • 10:09:23

    DANAHARNo, they've got to sort it out next week to finally finalize it. It's not completely done yet, but it does feel like something that everyone but the refugees can probably sign up to because it meets the basic requirements of the Europeans and the European nations being able to say to their people we have a plan because they haven't got a plan at the moment. The plans that they did have have completely fallen apart and fractured and it's shown the divisions within the EU.

  • 10:09:47

    DANAHARSome countries have been incredibly generous, like Germany. Others, like my own country, have been much less generous in taking people in. You've had nothing at all in the way of a kind of unified understanding of the problem and the solution to it.

  • 10:09:59

    GJELTENSo Frances, can Turkey pull of its end of this deal? I mean, Turkey is really in the hot, you know, are they going to really be able to take one migrant for every migrant that goes onto Europe? How can they handle this and what was at stake here for Turkey?

  • 10:10:15

    BURWELLWell, I actually have a lot of questions about this deal and I don't see it as anything close to done. The EU often does react this way in a crisis where it comes very close to getting a deal and then, later, it can fall apart. There are certain leaders, such as Angela Merkel, who very much need a deal right now because of some elections she's facing this weekend. And this is convenient because the next meeting is going to be next week after those elections.

  • 10:10:46

    BURWELLI think that there are some real issues with this deal as we understand it right now. The first is that simply returning migrants to Turkey without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum could very well be contrary to international law. And I assume that there will be organizations that will take this very quickly to the European courts. The second is that it's not at all clear that Turkey can control what is going on in terms of its own borders and the people smugglers.

  • 10:11:17

    BURWELLThere is a lot of supposition that the Turkish government and others have turned a blind eye to what's been going on and there is a new Euro Just report. This is the -- across European judicial agency has just issued a report casting a great deal of doubt on whether Turkey can actually implement a stopping of people at its borders. It's also not clear that once you have people vetted from camps in Turkey, Syrians vetted in Turkey and then take them to the EU, allow them into the EU, it's not clear which countries they would go to.

  • 10:11:56

    BURWELLThey'll all want to go to Germany and Sweden, but it's kind of based on an allocation, which many of the countries have not yet signed up to.

  • 10:12:03

    GJELTENOkay. This is good. We've got a sort of a hopeful analysis and a rather pessimistic analysis. So that promises for...

  • 10:12:09

    DANAHARI'm not sure I was hopeful.

  • 10:12:12

    GJELTENGordon Repinski, first of all, welcome to Washington. Brand new correspondent here for Der Spiegel.

  • 10:12:16

    REPINSKIThank you.

  • 10:12:18

    GJELTENSo as Paul mentioned, one of the things that's at stake here is whether these European leaders can sell to their own people on the promise that they are managing this crisis and there's probably no leader in Europe with more at stake in this regard than your chancellor, Angela Merkel. Do you have a sense of how this meeting yesterday is being received in Germany today?

  • 10:12:45

    REPINSKIYeah. Thank you, Tom. I think you're absolutely right. This meeting was very, very important for Angela Merkel and for her party as well. We have upcoming elections on Sunday in three (word?) The results will be...

  • 10:12:59

    GJELTENThree states.

  • 10:13:00

    REPINSKIThree states, yeah. Three states. We expect a rise of the right wing extremist party and the established parties, the conservatives and the social democrats are expected to lose many voters. So for Angela Merkel, it was very important to send a sign and to be able to say, we have a chance. There is an opportunity that will limit the number of refugees coming into the EU and I think at least this meeting yesterday, this summit yesterday, allowed her to say that.

  • 10:13:34

    REPINSKIWe are not sure if this is going to happen, but at least she can say this.

  • 10:13:39

    GJELTENAnd how powerful, how important are these conservative or right wing criticisms of her migrant policy right now? Are they getting a lot of attention and a lot of popular support in Germany right now?

  • 10:13:54

    REPINSKIYeah, very much. Actually, it's the first time after the second World War that the right wing extremist or ring wing populist parties can gain remarkable amount of voters in Germany. We expect between 10 and 20 percent for the right wing parties in the upcoming elections. And this is a change in Germany. We have never seen this before. This will change the political landscape in Germany. It will not be possible anymore for the classical coalitions to rule a country.

  • 10:14:35

    REPINSKIWe will see great coalitions in most of the states. So it will change the country remarkably. And this is why it is also so important for Angela Merkel. Angela Merkel was on the peak of popularity before the refugee crisis was hitting Europe. Nobody was ever thinking she could lose so much popularity and then the refugee crisis started and what we see is, in fact, that she's losing popularity and now she really has to fight for herself also and for her party.

  • 10:15:13

    REPINSKIAnd we cannot see -- we cannot be sure that she's going to be chancellor anymore in one, two, three years. We cannot be sure anymore.

  • 10:15:19

    GJELTENSuch an important point for Europe. Let's go to Rome for the perspective from there. Deborah Ball, Prime Minister Benzi (sic) was very much involved in this summit. What was at stake for him?

  • 10:15:33

    MS. DEBORAH BALLWell, for the Italians, this is -- I mean, they're right behind the Greeks, obviously, in terms of having people arrive here. The Italians were at the front line until last summer and everything changed, obviously with Greece. I mean, this deal for the Italians doesn't touch the problem of the migrants coming into Italy because they aren't Syrians. Now, they're Sub-Saharan Africans. They come over from Libya.

  • 10:15:55

    MS. DEBORAH BALLI think there's a great deal of concern. Obviously the Italians are very concerned that the political situation in Europe, in general, find some stability so they can find a constructive solution of some sort because the chaos that's reigned over this problem certainly hasn't helped the Italians. But the Italians certainly, and I think in general, I mean, the concerns over this are some of what's already been raised, but certainly people will look for other roots. They will end up one major concern for the Italians.

  • 10:16:18

    MS. DEBORAH BALLClearly, they'll look for roots over land. There's already talk -- the Italians are concerned that they will take a very, very long sea route out of Turkey, which is the idea of that, the danger of it is really kind of shocking. There's clearly the money involved in that the Turks are asking for. I mean, they basically have, you know, Europe by the back of the neck and who pays for this at this point? A country like Italy that is not doing great economically, that's a major concern.

  • 10:16:45

    MS. DEBORAH BALLThe resettlement issue, the Italians, obviously are very much in favor of some sort of resettlement issue or solution. In principle, it sounds wonderful, but they've tried -- the Italians and the Greeks were meant to be the donor countries of the migrants that have arrived here and in Greece and resettled throughout Europe. I think we've had just about 600 people resettled in this entire program. So basically nothing and they had to go searching for those people to be resettled.

  • 10:17:12

    MS. DEBORAH BALLI mean, the comments already out of the eastern European countries in the past 18 hours have been, to say the least, not very encouraging in terms of their willingness to participate in any of this. The Polish minster gave an interview to one of the Italian newspapers saying, we -- they don't like it and as much as they would ever participate in this, they would want to go to choose the migrants that they would be willing to take in and they would have to be certain criteria.

  • 10:17:41

    MS. DEBORAH BALLIt's hard to imagine how resettlement could work after the experience we've had in the last eight months.

  • 10:17:47

    GJELTENOkay. Deborah Ball is speaking to us from Rome, Italy, where she is the Italy bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. My other guests are Paul Danahar, Washington bureau chief for the BBC, Frances Burwell who's vice president for the European Union and Special Initiatives at the Atlantic Council and Gordon Repinski, the Washington correspondent for the German magazine, Der Spiegel. I'm Tom Gjelten.

  • 10:18:09

    GJELTENWe're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

  • 10:20:02

    GJELTENHello, again. I'm Tom Gjelten from NPR. I'm sitting in this week for Diane Rehm. And today, in this hour, we are discussing the migrant crisis on the Greek border, all the migrants and refugees from Syria and their efforts to get into Europe and what this means for the future of Europe. My guests here are Paul Danahar. He was the Washington bureau chief of the BBC. He's also the author of "The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring." Frances Burwell, vice president for European Union and Special Initiatives at the Atlantic Council. And Gordon Repinski, the Washington correspondent for the German magazine, Der Spiegel. Also by phone from Rome, Italy, Deborah Ball the Italy bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal.

  • 10:20:43

    GJELTENWe have an email from Del, in Florida, who wonders, why in the world wouldn't the United Nations or some other organization build safe areas near these refugees' homes so they don't have to risk their lives fleeing in leaky boats? Why couldn't this be done. As an American, I'd be willing to see some of our tax dollars used for that effort, as long as other countries also contribute, especially Saudi Arabia. Well that, of course, is also what Donald Trump is talking about. And I think that probably there's actually a lot of support in this country for this idea and probably in Europe as well, for this idea that maybe the solution is more -- is investment in safe areas in Syria. Paul, what's the viability of that proposal?

  • 10:21:25

    DANAHARWell, that was a plan that people talked about in 2012. I mean, when we went...

  • 10:21:29

    GJELTENFour years ago.

  • 10:21:30

    DANAHAR...four years ago, when the crisis -- if you look at the summer of 2012, that's when the U.N. basically gave up, when they handed things over to the Arab League, which did nothing. And you saw the massive increase in the death toll from about July of that year. And it hasn't stopped. And that was when people like John McCain, for example, were saying there should be a no-fly zone.

  • 10:21:48

    DANAHARAnd there was an opportunity when -- you remember that Turkish plane got shot down -- there was an opportunity there to say, right. We're going to use NATO to provide a safe area to allow people to basically flee to. And I think if that had happened, you'd have had members of the regime that were willing to jump ship, fleeing to a safe area and it could have all been different. Now, you've got a situation where you're going to try and do it now. And you've got ISIS not too far away from where this safe zone would be.

  • 10:22:14


  • 10:22:15

    DANAHARYou've got a fracturing of the opposition groups. You've still got a massive civil war on the ground. It's not like you're going to see that this is going to be pushing anything back. And you're basically saying to these people, look, you can go back into Syria now. I mean, there's nothing there. It's all been bombed completely. And -- but, you know, you'll have a different refugee camp in Syria. I think it's incredibly unrealistic that people are going to be willing to run back over the border. Because as far as they're concerned, they've watched their country fall apart. And they've watched the world do nothing about it.

  • 10:22:45

    DANAHARWhy would they trust people to send them back across the border to Syria and then protect them if they found the Assad forces going after them or the ISIS forces going after them?

  • 10:22:55

    GJELTENFrances Burwell.

  • 10:22:56

    BURWELLI would just also say that we have seen some experience with setting up refugee camps in Turkey and on the edges of Syria. And those have been managed by UNHCR, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. And what I understand is that the amount of support given for the refugees every day is really very seriously below any kind of poverty level. The support of the major donors had declined over the years. And the refugees are not able -- the displaced persons are not able to work in the Turkish economy. The area where these camps were, were -- had more than 10 percent unemployment rate.

  • 10:23:36

    BURWELLAnd so we have tried a situation. And basically, the financial support for UNHCR was declining until the refugees took matters in their own hands and started to move. And then people started to increase their contributions as a way of hoping to keep people in those locations.

  • 10:23:55

    DANAHARAnd who's going to protect these people?

  • 10:23:57


  • 10:23:57

    DANAHARI mean, seriously, who's going to protect them? Is it just going to be some, you know, missiles that may knock things down? Who's going to protect them on the ground?

  • 10:24:03


  • 10:24:03

    DANAHARAre we going to have U.N. peacekeeping forces? Are we going to hand it over to the Syrian government to protect? Who's going to do the protecting on the ground is a real big issue.

  • 10:24:10


  • 10:24:11

    DANAHARAnd without governments being willing to literally move into Syrian territory publicly and protect these safe areas, how is it going to be done?

  • 10:24:20

    GJELTENMm-hmm. Meanwhile, Deborah, have you had an opportunity, from Rome there, to go over to Greece or to Turkey to visit any of these refugee camps? Do you have a sense of what the situation is right now in those camps, some 13,000 people trapped at the border?

  • 10:24:39

    BALLNo, no. That's not part of my (word?) But we certain -- what we hear though from here -- for instance the U.N. World Food Program is headquartered out of Rome and, of course, obviously, we're in close contact with the UNHCR -- is that the experience there, I think it was last winter particularly when they ran short of food in parts of the camps, that that was at a certain moment, a certain catalyst that really sent people on their march. Certainly the aid workers -- the migrant reception folks that we are in contact with here, the reason we -- when we try to canvass the reasons why people have decided to finally get up and go is everyone talks about hitting this four or five year mark of people living in the camps, where you have, you know, you've had your child there who was one and now she's six.

  • 10:25:19


  • 10:25:19

    BALLAnd there's no hope of schooling or way out. And you look at it -- you look, you know, you say, do I stay here or do I take, you know, my life in my hands, my children's life in my hands and just go on the move. And apparently that's the story we've heard over and over again. We also -- of course the -- a lot of the NGOs really denounce the conditions in the camps as well. I mean they're -- this is becoming -- probably a focus of it now with this Turkish deal, the prospect of what the conditions for these people when they get sent back, at that stage, opens -- I think it'll put a lot of -- a new spotlight on exactly how they're living over there.

  • 10:25:54

    GJELTENAnd, Gordon, how many migrants has Germany taken in? And what is the situation with them? Where are they living? How well have they been integrated? How well are they being taken care of? How have they been received?

  • 10:26:08

    REPINSKIOh, last year, it was more than one million refugees come into Germany. And now they are basically spread all over the country. There is no village, almost, that does not accommodate refugees. So, and this is what is -- makes the whole situation such a challenge for the communities, for the local politicians also. Because everybody makes experiences with refugees coming into the village. And this is, for many people in the population, this -- it doesn't feel comfortable. So -- and because it is such a big number, one million, it is a little bit complicated.

  • 10:26:47

    REPINSKIIf we could imagine this number of refugees being spread all over Europe, it wouldn't be such a challenge. And this is why the German perspective is, why don't we spread them all over Europe? Why don't we find a way to share these refugees? And then it wouldn't be a problem for any one of us.

  • 10:27:06

    GJELTENWell, it's no surprise that all these migrants want to move to Germany, when you've had such an open-door policy and have...

  • 10:27:15


  • 10:27:15

    GJELTEN...moved them around and taken care of them. But Frances, as Gordon suggests, you know, other countries in Europe have not been nearly so receptive. And some are even adopting much tougher border controls right now. What's the situation with the -- sort of the kind of the new border policies that you've seen in Europe?

  • 10:27:37

    BURWELLSure. But before I answer that, let me just say a shout out for Sweden, which has been a true champion of this. And Sweden, proportionately, has taken in as many refugees as though we allowed five million here into the United States.

  • 10:27:49

    GJELTENMy goodness.

  • 10:27:50

    BURWELLSo it is -- they are also facing the limits of their citizens' patience with this. And they face real challenges now. I think most people -- most of your listeners who've traveled in Europe are familiar with Schengen, which is the borderless area in Europe. So you can just go between France...

  • 10:28:05

    GJELTENYou can move.

  • 10:28:06

    BURWELL...and Germany like you cross from Maryland to Virginia or something like that.

  • 10:28:08

    GJELTENWell, not just France and Germany, even from Hungary to Germany.

  • 10:28:10

    REPINSKIYeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And since the beginning of this crisis and particularly starting last fall, we've seen the borders reemerge within Europe. And right now there are borders between quite a number of countries that are now reimposed. And Europeans have actually gotten used to living in one country and working in another. So the border controls that have gone up on some of the transport routes between countries such as Denmark and Sweden have caused real problems for people who commute.

  • 10:28:45

    BURWELLIt's also estimated that if Schengen is not fully restored, there could be a loss of as much as 0.5 percent GDP in Europe because Europe sends a lot of its goods by trucks. And those trucks, when they hit those borders, stand in line for a couple of days, whereas before they just would drive across the border. So economically this is a situation that is really threatening European already modest growth.

  • 10:29:12

    GJELTENHow can these countries establish border controls in what sounds to me like a violation of the Schengen agreement.

  • 10:29:20

    BURWELLWell, Schengen does allow that in extraordinary circumstances you can reimpose controls. And it's been used before for soccer tournaments to keep hooligans from crossing into a country…

  • 10:29:30

    DANAHARNormally British ones.

  • 10:29:32

    DANAHARVery polite of you not to say that.

  • 10:29:34

    BURWELL...and NATO summits where you will have a security reason. But the commission -- the European Commission is now working with the countries that have imposed these controls. And the idea is that, if you have a deal that will also have stronger external controls on the European border, on the Schengen border in particular, then, by the end of this year, you should remove these internal controls.

  • 10:29:59

    GJELTENGordon, Angela Merkel is a bit advocate of maintaining open borders, isn't she?

  • 10:30:04

    REPINSKIYes, she is. And I just want to add one thing, because it's not only an economic challenge.

  • 10:30:09


  • 10:30:09

    REPINSKIYou are absolutely right when you say that it will have tremendous economic consequences and economies and growth will go down. But it will also culturally change Europe. We are used to free opportunities to travel. We are used to not stop on the borders. I come from the city of Berlin, which is now a capital of international people -- people from Europe coming in, enjoying a weekend in Berlin and going back without being stopped at the border. The German people usually take their car and go on vacation to France. And they don't want to stop on two borders before they do it. So this will change everything. And whenever we discuss the Schengen code, we also have to think of this.

  • 10:30:58

    REPINSKIWe are very deep inside the idea of Europe. And this is more than only economic consequences.

  • 10:31:03

    BURWELLYeah. Absolutely.

  • 10:31:05

    GJELTENIs that the way it's seen in Rome, Deborah?

  • 10:31:07

    BALLWell, yeah, the issue around the borders -- I'd like to make a couple of points actually. Certainly, I mean, Italy obviously, the Austrian border, we share the border with Austria. And the issue of the Austrians trying to put their border back up is one that's keenly felt here. The thing is though, effectively, you can't feel these are borders entirely. And the result is it basically raises the stakes for the people smugglers who will -- who find an entirely new market in people who are desperate to get across the border.

  • 10:31:35

    BALLFor instance, in the -- the migrants who are crossing from Italy into Austria trying to get to Germany over the past couple of years, they would get up -- take the train up to the Brenner Pass and take the train across and then travel on, as long as the border was reasonably open. When it started to close, we found more people smugglers offering to take people across. There -- many people regard that -- the truck that was found last August, it was, or September in Austria with, what was it, 120 people who had -- who were suffocated. That happened almost immediately after the Hungarians put up their fence. So there is a direct relationship between these borders and people-smuggling.

  • 10:32:17

    GJELTENDeborah Ball is the Italy bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal. I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You know, Paul, I lived in Europe in the early 1990s, at a time of great optimism and idealism about this idea of European unity. What, from your point of view -- you've though about this a lot and you've written about it -- what is at stake here, as far as the idea of Europe is concerned?

  • 10:32:44

    DANAHARI think what's actually at stake is an honest assessment of what different countries thing the European identity is. What we've seen over the last 20-odd years is people trying to cover over the cracks and pretend that everybody agrees broadly about the same things. What this crisis has done is really brought out the national identities of people and how they look at Europe and the European identity and how they think about borders and travel and how they look at the different aspects of their own society and how that's been changed by the refugee crisis.

  • 10:33:16

    DANAHARWhat we're really seeing here is a reevaluation of Europe on many levels by its members. And that includes the British. It includes the Germans trying to hang on to their old identity. It includes the new nations that have come in saying -- like you've got the Hungarians, I think it was, saying, you know, we'll take refugees but only Christians. I mean, there's this kind of -- people are basically kind of breaking away from this moving towards a broad, common identity set of values and regressing back towards, well we'll take this bit but not -- this kind of ala carte menu approach towards the EU, which, frankly, the British have rather pioneered. That way of thinking is increasingly becoming more predominant.

  • 10:33:54

    DANAHARI think one of the things we need to reflect upon with this refugee crisis is, just under half of the refugees are Syrian. The other half are not. They're from Afghanistan. They're from North Africa, et cetera. The reason I think why, you know, the Syrians have been so desperate to get to Europe -- they've not been happy sitting in those refugee camps -- is that they've come from very sophisticated societies with very high levels of education, with a relatively good standard of living, compared to, say, someone coming from Afghanistan, which is the second biggest group of people. They're not people that are natural refugees. They've been very welcoming to other refugees, from Iraq, from Lebanon, from the Palestinian territories.

  • 10:34:32

    DANAHARSo they have an idea about what they should be providing for their children. And they weren't going to be able to provide for their children in the way they expected to in a refugee camp in Turkey. And so their aspirations are different often from people coming from Afghanistan, where they're just basically fleeing murder and mayhem. They're -- these people are saying, yes, we're fleeing murder and mayhem. But we expect a certain future for our children. And that's why Europe is such a draw to them. And that's why it will continue to be a draw to them. Because what they want is to get their old lives back or something close to their old lives.

  • 10:35:00

    GJELTENSure. Sure. Well, Frances, let's talk about why Europe is so resistant to -- even to well-educated refugees and migrants coming in. Paul mentioned that, you know, some countries say, well maybe the Christians as opposed to the Muslims. But, you know, there is some European nationalism here, even among those who sort of defend Europe as an entity. I know that the polls, for example, talk about the danger of losing European culture, European values. So these refugees coming from non-European backgrounds must represent, you know, something that, you know, a lot of Europeans are sort of uncertain about, right?

  • 10:35:37

    BURWELLI think that's true. And I think that Europe is in the middle of a great challenge. The challenge of diversity is only one of the many challenges that Europe is facing right now. Europe has made it through, maybe, the Eurozone crisis. Europe used to live in a very comfortable neighborhood and now you have the Ukraine and the Russian from Russia and you have its southern neighborhood basically falling apart. So Europe is -- Europe's borders are on fire, in the words of one of my friends in Europe.

  • 10:36:08

    BURWELLAnd they, in the middle of this, suddenly find themselves with a whole lot of new, potential Europeans, who in some cases don't look like them, have a different religious background and also, to some, represent a security threat...

  • 10:36:26


  • 10:36:26 we saw in Paris. So it is a very difficult challenge. I think, actually, that there are some similarities or parallels with the discussion that is going on in this country. There are some who are looking forward to diversity and participation in the global economy and see immigration as a way forward. And then there are others who wish to hold on to what they see as core values and who look for the comfort that they have known in the past. And then there are politicians who use those concerns of the normal, everyday person to solidify their own place in power and to gain -- and to use it to gain more votes for themselves, as we saw in Slovakia this weekend.

  • 10:37:17

    GJELTENFrances Burwell is from the Atlantic Council, where she's vice president for the European Union and Special Initiatives. And we're talking about the migrant crisis on Europe's border, what it means for those migrants and what it means for the future of Europe. When we come back, we're going to go to your calls. Remember, our phone number is 1-800-433-8850. I'm Tom Gjelten. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

  • 10:40:01

    GJELTENAnd hello again, I'm Tom Gjelten from NPR. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm, and we're talking about the migrant or refugee crisis on Europe's doorstep. My guests are Paul Danahar, Washington bureau chief at the BBC, Fran Burwell, vice president at the -- for -- at the Atlantic Council for the European Union and Special Initiatives. I keep wanting to make you vice president of the European Union.

  • 10:40:22

    BURWELLI would be honored.

  • 10:40:25

    GJELTENAnd Gordon Repinski, who is Washington correspondent for the German magazine Der Spiegel. Also on the phone from Rome, Italy, is Deborah Ball, where she's the Italy bureau chief. We have an email from Colin in MI, who says this. While you are talking about the refugees, this deal from Turkey and the EU does not address the destruction of democracy in Turkey, the suppression of the freedom of the press, the place of the Kurds, and most of all, oversight for the protection and care of the returned refugees.

  • 10:40:55

    GJELTENDeborah Ball, I know that Prime Minister Renzi brought up the issue of democracy in Turkey in this mini-summit yesterday. Tell us a little bit more about what his concerns were and why he brought them up.

  • 10:41:10

    BALLWell, it's not just his concerns, that's for sure. I mean, I think this fundamentally, it re-opens an issue that had been closed a long time ago about Turkey's accession to the EU and to the degree to which the Europeans can contemplate that. I mean, I know Merkel had been, I gather, quite against it. The Italians have been a little bit more -- a little warmer towards it, but it had been a closed issue for a long time.

  • 10:41:35

    BALLAnd certainly the fundamental freedoms in Turkey are a major question. I suspect that Renzi's comments around the freedom of press, it was sparked by a newspaper that was closed, I gather, in the past couple of days, was more of a stocking horse in order for them to maybe strike a better deal with the Turks, since the Turks are basically the blackmailing the Europeans to get anything they want to to get themselves out of this situation.

  • 10:42:00

    BALLSo I suspect it's one of the few cards they have to play in renegotiating or negotiating some sort of deal with the Turks, but certainly there are some fundamental human rights and other issues in Turkey.

  • 10:42:13

    GJELTENWell Gordon Repinski, Deborah says that Turks here, and I don't think she's exaggerating all that much, are basically blackmailing the Europeans in order to get their assistance in dealing with this migrant crisis. I mean, the truth is that Turkey has all the leverage here, right? I mean, how much -- how much clout, how much leverage does -- do Europeans countries even have in this negotiation?

  • 10:42:37

    REPINSKIWell, I mean, the former German Chancellor and Foreign Minister Willy Brandt once said a sentence when he was a foreign minister, and that was, if I only negotiate with those countries who are nice and who respect everything that we respect, I can do it in my home, I can do it in my living room. So I also have to talk with partners who I can also criticize for other things. And this is what we see right now in Turkey. It's actually, it's foreign policy, it is accepting a country because you need it and to negotiate with this country because you need this country. Turkey is a crucial state. The Turkish government, obviously with everything that we saw last week happening with the Zama newspaper, is not a country that we would -- that we would see as a partner which shares every democratic value that we would share in Europe, but still we have to negotiate with them, and we need them for a solution.

  • 10:43:40

    GJELTENBut does that mean that Europe is going to have to be more open to accelerating Turkey's accession into the European Union, Fran?

  • 10:43:47

    BURWELLI think it's going to be difficult to do. It's one thing to agree in principle that you're going to open the chapters of the negotiations, and I think it's very clear that for Erdogan and Davutoglu, the president and prime minister, that this would be a -- internally it would provide them with a high point, it would be a benefit for them internally, but negotiations to accede to the EU are incredibly complicated, and Turkey has made some progress, but for the last three or four years, the progress reports have seen Turkey going in the wrong direction.

  • 10:44:28

    BURWELLAnd I think the closure or the takeover of Zaman, the paper on Thursday, Friday last week, was only the most recent example. So I think yes, they can agree in principle that they're going to restart, everyone walks away with the political plus of that in Turkey. I don't think it's going to be very well-regarded among Angela Merkel's constituents. And then probably the negotiations will go nowhere.

  • 10:44:52

    GJELTENLet's go now to Mike, who's on the phone from Livonia, Michigan. Hello, Mike.

  • 10:44:57

    MIKEHi, how are you?

  • 10:44:59

    GJELTENI'm good. Have you voted today? You're calling about something other than Michigan politics, I'm assuming.

  • 10:45:04

    MIKENot just yet, not just yet, but I definitely will be at the polls.

  • 10:45:10

    GJELTENSo your question, have you been following our discussion? What's your thought?

  • 10:45:13

    MIKEYes, I have. So my question is, it has to do with context here a little bit and sort of looking back over the history of the United States in the Middle East, and this goes back to really the Carter doctrine, in a sense, that we will go there and protect our vital interests and that notion that really -- and then coming fast-forward to, you know, 9/11 and then our -- I would refer to the activity in Iraq and weapons of mass destruction and so forth.

  • 10:45:42

    MIKEAnd now here we are leaving this vacuum behind, with this huge crisis going on, and I'd like comments from the panel on what seems to me to be a lack of leadership on the part of the United States in terms of showing the world how we ought to be dealing with this crisis that our country and our military activities in the Middle East are responsible for.

  • 10:46:09

    GJELTENWell Mike, we have here somebody who wrote a book called "The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring," Paul Danahar. Does the United States bear a lot of the responsibility for this terrible situation?

  • 10:46:20

    DANAHARI think we can look back at the -- at the invasion of Iraq being the beginning of a lot of the problems we see today. Saddam Hussein was a kind of a center of gravity in the Middle East, and when he was taken out, it changed the orbit of everything else, and so many of the issues, not all of them, but many of the issues that we're dealing with today do go back to that.

  • 10:46:39

    DANAHARI think what happened was it was such a bad bit of leadership to go into Iraq and take out Saddam that when you really did need some leadership over the Syrian crisis, I think there was great reservation in the White House, and we saw that within the State Department and within the CIA, there was a desire to do more, to stop this, to do more than just try and contain it but to try and steer this crisis in a certain direction.

  • 10:47:04

    DANAHARAnd I think -- I think that the argument that there's been a lack of American leadership over the Middle East in the last four years is a reasonable one to make. I think there has been a lack of leadership, I think what we've seen is a hands-off approach, an allowance of the other actors, the Turks and the Gulf States, to play a free hand and to basically mess it up. And now there's a oh-my-God-we-have-a-crisis-what-are-we-going-to-do approach, and, you know, so now there is a bit of movement.

  • 10:47:28

    DANAHARBut it's only really when Europe got dragged into this that the world woke up and said it's now our problem, it's not just somebody else's problem.

  • 10:47:35

    GJELTENWe have here an email from Pam, and I think that there are a number of other emails who are making the same point. She says, it's so infuriating that the billionaire Gulf states have contributed almost nothing and not taken in a single refugee. How can we hold their feet to the fire? Deborah Ball, I'm guessing that there are a lot of Italians who say something similar, wondering why the Gulf states aren't doing more, aren't picking up more of the burden.

  • 10:48:03

    BALLYes, unquestionably. Well, I think Europe is so absorbed in the problem day to day that I don't even know if they can look that far afield. I think I would toss that back to my colleague at the BBC, who will probably have a better answer for why that dynamic is unfolding that way. But yes, but clearly Europe would like to have more support from the region, that's no question.

  • 10:48:23

    GJELTENAnd do Italians say that, do you know?

  • 10:48:26

    BALLAgain, I think that my feeling is that in Europe, they're so absorbed with this emergency at this stage that -- and I think that the idea of getting any real assistance is so distant that that's not really a realistic prospect.

  • 10:48:40

    GJELTENFran Burwell?

  • 10:48:41

    BURWELLI think it's unclear that many of the refugees actually want to go to the Gulf States.

  • 10:48:46

    DANAHARI agree.

  • 10:48:48

    BURWELLSo I think they're heading where they want to go, and that's Germany and Sweden. I think to return to the question of the United States, I think one of the issues that has caused some resentment in Europe about our role in this is that we are now pledged to take in something like -- I think we went from 10,000 to 35,000 refugees, Syrian refugees, a pledge of that, and each one will take about 18 months to clear through our vetting process.

  • 10:49:15

    BURWELLSo in terms of taking in the refugees.

  • 10:49:17

    REPINSKIAnd in the last five years you've taken 2,500 in total.

  • 10:49:21

    BURWELLRight, so compared to what's showing up on Europe's doorstep, this is less than a drop in the bucket.

  • 10:49:27

    DANAHARBut I think to be fair, I mean, I don't think that -- this is a European problem, and in many ways, yes, you can ask for America to step up. America does take in a lot of refugees every year from other parts of the world. So I think there is an argument that this is -- I think the problem is that this is a problem that the Europeans and America allowed to happen, and now the response is what do we do, and this plan that we talked about earlier is an attempt to try and do something, but it's so full of holes, it's so kind of -- it's often on the back of a cigarette packet, basically. It's how do we get out of this.

  • 10:50:00

    DANAHARAnd, you know, this has been the problem all the way along. It's knee-jerk reactions to big problems and no forward planning. That's what this situation has always needed.

  • 10:50:10

    GJELTENYou know, I saw a tweet from Donald Tusk, who is president of the European Council, that looks to me like a prime example of wishful thinking. He says the days of irregular migration to Europe are over. The Turkish prime minister confirmed Turkey takes back irregular migrants apprehended on Turkish waters. I think we can all agree that that's a little bit of a wishful, a wishful thought.

  • 10:50:31

    BURWELLBut that's also part -- excuse me, that's also part of his strategy. He's been trying to discourage migrants from coming by saying the door is closed, don't come here, literally.

  • 10:50:37

    GJELTENRight, that makes sense.

  • 10:50:41

    BURWELLSo it's partly bargaining behavior.

  • 10:50:41

    GJELTENLet's go now to Ryan, who's on the line from North Carolina. Hello, Ryan, this is "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:50:46

    RYANHi, so mine is kind of like a two-part question for you all. One, how does, you know, the governments taking in the refugees, you know, justify the risk in terms of economically because you're taking -- essentially making an investment in the hopes that the people you've taken in will contribute to your society and re-payback all the money that you've spent to bring them here, to house them and do all that, while at the same time, and this is the second part, justifying to people in your country, who are your own native population, that the need and the help that they've been waiting to get or that they, you know, need for themselves is not as important as people that are coming and are basically, you know, being, like, these people are getting pushed back when they need the help, too. Does that make sense?

  • 10:51:36

    GJELTENYeah, it sure does, Ryan, and I'm going to put that question to Gordon Repinski in a minute, after I remind our listeners that you are listening to the Diane Rehm Show. So Gordon, Germany has taken in, what was it, did you say two million, one million?

  • 10:51:53

    REPINSKIOne million.

  • 10:51:55

    GJELTENOne million, and what has been the economic impact of those refugees? How many of them are working? Are they -- you know, we've been talking before that a lot of them were well-educated, professionals. What has been the economic impact of those refugees? Have they been economically integrated in Germany?

  • 10:52:12

    REPINSKII think this is too early to say. They have just arrived. They are not allowed to work. The whole thing is being processed right now, and we can only assume what is going to happen, and the assumption is that a relatively small percentage will be able to -- is well-educated and will directly be able to contribute to growth in the German economy. But I don't -- I also don't think that it is a calculation the way the listener was just explaining this to us because I think when we are taking -- and this is also Angela Merkel's approach, when we are taking and accommodating refugees in Germany, this is not because we are expecting them to directly contribute to the German economy but because Angela Merkel is convinced that this is a human conviction.

  • 10:53:01


  • 10:53:01

    REPINSKIAnd that she has to do it to help these people.

  • 10:53:01

    GJELTENBut it's true, isn't it, that Germany has an aging population, and you have a need for younger workers in particular?

  • 10:53:08

    REPINSKIYeah, and we would not say no if one million, well-qualified Syrians would come and directly start working and enrich the labor market. But let's be realistic. This is not what's going to happen. We will have to invest a lot of money in those people to get educated, to find -- to do all measures and all sorts of integration measures, and this is what's -- what has to happen, and this will cost money.

  • 10:53:40

    GJELTENYeah, Fran Burwell, what is the capability of other European countries to absorb refugees and migrants not just in terms of the costs of resettling them but in terms of finding jobs for them and incorporating them in the economy?

  • 10:53:56

    BURWELLWell, I think that Germany is pretty typical, except that Germany is more welcoming than many of the other countries, and I think that the welcome has a lot to do with how well you end up integrating people. Throughout Europe you have an aging population. Germany is not the worst. And in fact the Central European countries, who have been very critical of, or very reluctant to take in immigrants, actually have some of the most rapidly aging populations.

  • 10:54:22

    BURWELLBut Europe has seen growth rates of one to two percent over the last five years or so, and so it's not a booming economy. It's a comfortable economy, it's an economy with a lot of good jobs, but it's not clear that these refugees will necessarily slot right into them.

  • 10:54:39

    GJELTENWe have time for one more call. Kathleen (PH) is on the line from Dayton, Ohio. Hello, Kathleen, you have called the Diane Rehm Show.

  • 10:54:46

    KATHLEENYeah, hi, thanks for the problem but -- because I always have to go to the BBS to get updates about what's really going on.

  • 10:54:53

    DANAHARThat's fine with me.

  • 10:54:53

    KATHLEENBut piggybacking on the former caller from Michigan, you know, how much exactly is the U.S. giving to the refugee crisis in the sense that he brought up, since the Bush and Obama, as well as Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, have played a huge and destructive role in creating the tragic crisis? And why has this topic, why has Hillary Clinton, the deadly foreign policy decisions, why have they basically been off the table during these debates?

  • 10:55:25

    GJELTENWell, that's a good question, and Paul, what are your thoughts? You're the BBC, and you're the one that knows everything about this, according to Kathleen.

  • 10:55:31

    DANAHARI wouldn't go that far. Look, I think the reality is America has been very generous in terms of funding. I mean, it sent billions across to try and help this situation. There is undoubtedly, I think, a legacy that some of the decisions that have been taken within the State Department and I think largely, frankly, within the White House, exacerbated situation in Syria in the sense that not doing anything actually doesn't mean that nothing happened. If you don't do anything, there are consequences to inaction, and there was a lot of inaction that went on.

  • 10:56:01

    DANAHARI think one of the things that we need to bear in mind is, you know, this -- this whole program, this whole discussion is based on, many ways, this new plan, you know, Turkey in the EU. Look at Turkey's foreign policy. Turkey wanted to be in Europe. Then it found itself being rebuffed. Then it had a new policy, zero problems with neighbors. So it looked towards the Middle East to build itself anew.

  • 10:56:22

    DANAHARThen the Arab Spring happened, until that began to fall apart. Now it's looking back at Europe. Every time you make a deal with Turkey, Turkey changes its mind because it's got ever-changing demands, ever-changing pressures within its own society. So even if you have a deal, you know, Obama used to say that he talked to Erdogan more than any other leader.

  • 10:56:41

    GJELTENErdogan, Turkish president.

  • 10:56:42

    DANAHARYeah, I don't know how much they talk now but probably nowhere near as much as they used to, and there's a lot less common ground than there used to be.

  • 10:56:50

    GJELTENRight, well, you know, we've been talking about a refugee crisis that sort of burst onto the scene in 2015. Everything that I have read suggests that 2016 is likely to be even more critical. So I'm guessing that we're going to be returning to this subject many times in the months ahead. Paul Danahar was -- is Washington bureau chief of the BBC. My other guests were Frances Burwell, who is vice president at the Atlantic Council, Gordon Repinski, a Washington correspondent for the German magazine Der Spiegel. By phone from Rome, Italy, we were joined by Deborah Ball. She is the Italy bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. Thank you so much for coming in and enlightening us.

  • 10:57:30

    DANAHARThanks very much.

  • 10:57:30

    GJELTENAnd I'd like to thank our listeners, as well, for calling in with your comments. I'm Tom Gjelten. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."

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