German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Istanbul Sunday to try and secure Turkey's help in stemming the flow of refugees and migrants into Europe. During her visit, Merkel is scheduled to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss Turkey's role to mitigate the region's biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
Merkel's visit to Turkey comes two weeks before the country holds parliamentary elections, and just days after a European Union-drafted joint action plan -- which sought Turkey's assistance in exchange for easing visa restrictions for Turkish citizens, accelerating the country’s EU membership talks, and financial aid of up to $3.4 billion -- fell through. Merkel would seek to convince Erdogan to accept the deal, even as frustration over the influx of refugees, many of whom use Turkish shores as a launching point, continues to grow across Europe.
"She has maneuvered herself into such a 'no win' situation," Ekin Deligoez, a Turkish-born German lawmaker with the opposition Greens party, told Reuters. "And in such a situation, Mrs Merkel comes along with the wish for friendship! Erdogan knows that and he is using it."
However, the European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based research institute, said, in a statement released Sunday, that the two countries "share a capacity to bring the migration crisis back under control."
"If Germany and Turkey cannot reach a deal, there are no other solutions in sight, and the mass migration of Syrians and others into the EU will continue," the institute said, in the statement.
While economic powerhouse Germany has emerged as the most popular destination for the refugees -- most of whom are from Syria, Iraq, and other war-torn nations in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa -- Turkey serves as a gateway for those seeking to enter Europe. Additionally, Turkey has also sheltered over 2 million refugees -- mostly Syrians fleeing the onslaught of the Islamic State group in their home country.
"They announce they'll take in 30,000 to 40,000 refugees and then they are nominated for the Nobel for that," Erdogan reportedly said Saturday, in a not-so-subtle jab at Merkel, who was named as a Nobel Peace Prize contender for her open-doors policy on refugees. "We are hosting two and a half million refugees but nobody cares."
Also on Sunday -- two days after Hungary closed its border with Croatia -- thousands of refugees continued to enter Slovenia from Croatia. At least 4,000 refugees have arrived in the country so far, and the army has been placed on standby to help police deal with the influx, according to media reports.
"We are going to focus even more on safety and security and order so our country can function normally," Slovenia's Prime Minister Miro Cerar said. "Unlike other countries, Slovenia had time to prepare. It's not perfect, but things are moving."