Turkey, which is home to 2.5 million refugees, is showing great performance in the refugee issue. Besides, although it has a developing economy and internal and external problems, it is not taking the easy way out by saying “It isn't my problem.” So to say, it is giving the world a lesson in “humanitarian aid.”
The amount of humanitarian aid given to Syrian refugees until today has reached $10 billion. Currently there are projects in the education, health, housing, and employment fields for the refugees. Besides the government, local institutions and NGOs are effectively working for the refugees too. Meaning the government, the public and NGOs are making great efforts to assist the refugees.
Despite the high social and economic cost this of effort, sad to say, the EU countries did not stand by Turkey during this period.
Turning a deaf ear to Turkey's calls when the war first started in Syria, the EU can now see that Turkey's efforts were not unfounded.
Overlooking the atrocity in Syria, European Union countries have changed their attitude toward Turkey and the refugees coming from Syria since the forced migration has started. These countries requesting assistance from Turkey (a country that had an “open door policy” and was accepting all refugees) shows that their attitudes have changed.
However we all know that their current interest in the Syrian refugee crisis is because they do not want any migrants in their countries. Therefore, they are expecting Turkey to extend a helping hand, as Turkey has assumed all costs related to the refugees and has gained experience in this field.
However, while Turkey has assumed all costs until now, it will request the EU's help. The EU previously overlooked these requests and did not include it on their agenda. However, we are no longer in that period. The conditions of the current situation we are in, are different for both us and the EU.
THE CUSTOMS UNION AGREEMENT SHOULD BE REVISED
Therefore, the EU will have to enforcedly change its attitude toward Turkey during this new period. The EU countries that have always hindered Turkey's EU membership have to change their attitude to stem the migration wave headed toward Europe.
We now have the opportunity to gain the rights that we constantly missed because of the excuses the EU countries put before us during the negotiations. These opportunities include: Visa exemption, a new chapter of the member negotiation meetings starting again, and revising the Customs Union Agreement. It shouldn't be forgotten that the Customs Union Agreement, signed 20 years ago in 1996, is out of date. It should also be remembered that; besides the changing economic conditions of the Customs Union, the TTIP, a free trade agreement between the US and EU is a serious threat to Turkey's economy.
While ensuring that our citizens travel freely, without visa requirements, we should also ensure that the Customs Union, which allows the free trade of goods, does not work against us. Thus the Customs Union needs to be updated too.
Being left outside the TTIP agreement will bring about greater loss for Turkey, since Turkey is already at a loss because of the Customs Union Agreement. Otherwise, in the case of Turkey being excluded from the free trade agreement, the Customs Union does not have an economic meaning for Turkey.
Therefore, as a new period starts for Turkey and its relations with the EU, this issue should be brought to the table.