by Kakaouskia

Greetings to the Saker community and readers.

In one of Start Trek DS9 episodes, a Ferengi (the ultra-exploiters of the galaxy for the uninitiated) made the following comment: War is good for business; however the closer you are to the frontlines the less your profit.

It appears that this mantra is followed by Turkey, especially when considering the Syrian refugees. In 2013 Syria was estimated to have a total population of around 22 million people. The latest estimates show that between 2.5 and 2.7 million Syrians now live in Turkey

That Turkey has been benefitting from the war in Syria is well known; it has not been long since the Russian MOD has shown the videos of the endless columns of tankers crossing the Turkey – Syria border carrying over ISIS oil. However little is known of what is happening inside Turkey.

According to data from the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, in the first three months of 2016 alone 1369 companies with foreign partners have been established in the whole of Turkey. From these, 589 have Syrian partners. Not bad, considering that in up until November 2010 there were no Syrian-owned registered companies in Turkey. According to Syrians I have spoken to, apart from the obvious stability / safety and continuity offered to Syrian businesses, the Turkish government actively encourages Syrians to move their business to Turkey promising visas for them and their entire family if they do so – what the Syrians refer to as a “business visa”. Business with Syria is going well; according to a study by The Brookings Institution, the trade between Turkey and Syria has returned to the 2010 levels of $2B despite the fact that there is a civil war going on. And of course if you have millions of desperate people at your doorstep, you can always find cheap labour that does not need welfare and does not have to be paid the minimum wage.

This tough causes tensions as locals cannot compete in the labour market. The Turkish government realised that in order to maintain some control, things have to be normalised. Hence as of January 2016, the Turkish government started issuing work permits to Syrian refugees and decreed that those with a permit must be paid the normal minimum wage and enjoy all benefits a local worker has. Still, there is a surplus of people and they need to get employed otherwise trouble will ensue.

Enter the EU.

Since the Syrian crisis started, millions of people have crossed from Turkey to the EU and hundreds more attempt the Aegean crossing every day. One would expect the vast majority of these people to be Syrians trying to flee the civil war however according to the latest UNHCR data only 53% of those arriving in Greece are Syrians. This indicates that there is an active drive to traffic economic migrants to the EU.

As to the origin of the migrants and refugees, this map from UNHCR is quite clear:

UNHCR refugees map

(map retrieved from file Daily_Arrival_greece_14042016.pdf located at

Greece as it was expected quickly became overwhelmed with the number of people arriving, its own financial disaster leaving little room for effectively handling the crisis. It then turned to the EU as a member of what is supposed to be an alliance of European States.

However, the EU has transformed from an attempted alliance to an aspiring empire with a powerful core and impoverished periphery; the bureaucrats in Brussels give the impression that they consider Club Med countries as trouble provinces instead of equal members.

The internal EU conflict on how to deal with the refugees and the individual policies and wishes of EU countries have compounded the problem to such a degree that the EU is running scared to Turkey for a solution, effectively offering to pay Turkey ransom money. The agreement that was finalised on March 18th 2016 (full text here); in it among other things there is the provision of practically paying Turkey 3B Euro as a “first instalment” for keeping the refugees in Turkey as well as a target of “lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016” (extract from full text). Crucially it was also agreed to accelerate the accession process for Turkey by opening up more Chapters. EU is the only alliance that I am aware of that is in discussions with a prospect member (Turkey) that is illegally occupying part of another EU member state and officially does not recognise the existence of that Member State.

At this point I want to relate an interview I stumbled upon on the radio a couple of days ago. The guest, a European Parliament Member, was speaking of a proposal made in relation to the Syrian refugees. A group of EU Parliament Members proposed that instead of paying Turkey 3B Euros now and another 3B in 2018 to allocate that money in rebuilding a city in Syria in order to give incentive to people to return to their country. As for the security of that city, it was proposed that EU should coordinate with the Syrian government and Russia. Predictably this raised a furore and was promptly rejected; after all it is not part of the grant plan. And nothing is allowed to interfere with this plan – Germany has decided to allow prosecution by Turkey of a comedian that wrote a poem ridiculing Erdogan. So much for EU democracy.

Therefore to summarise, Turkey:

  • Sees its business with Syria is as good as ever
  • Has a surplus of cheap, expendable labour
  • Got most of what it wanted from a paralysed, scared and gutless EU
  • Can play geopolitics with the Saudis and the rest of the GCC

Frankly if the “unfortunate event” of Russia entering the war in Syria had not taken place one could argue of a triumph of Turkish planning. However, even with current events war is good for business – at least for Turkey.

(Authors note: In no way am I trying with this article to belittle the problems faced by ordinary Syrians caught in the war nor do I pretend to understand the horrors people face at the hands of Wahhabis. Unfortunately there are elements of the human race that are always ready to exploit (and in some cases inflict) suffering on their fellow humans.

Finally, I purposefully did not delve into the effects of the sanctions Russia has imposed on Turkey as I believe there are still not enough data to judge their full effect. Initial predictions show the impact to Turkish economy to be at least $10B)

The Essential Saker IV: Messianic Narcissism's Agony by a Thousand Cuts
The Essential Saker III: Chronicling The Tragedy, Farce And Collapse of the Empire in the Era of Mr MAGA