The EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement of Autumn 2015 as a Two-Level Game

Thomas Krumm
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The Syrian refugee crisis has put EU-Turkey relations under pressure for action, as in 2015 hundreds of thousands used the Turkey-Balkan route to entre central Europe. However, with some countries as Germany, Austria, and Sweden ‘suffering’ more than others under the influx, pressure for action including Turkey was especially high in these countries. Against this background, the article aims to analyse the EU-Turkey negotiations of autumn 2015 as a ‘two-level game’, with special interest on domestic factors possibly to impact on Turkish or German bargaining power. In both countries,  the need for an agreement in the refugee issue at international level was accompanied by specific domestic conditions such as the contested ‘open-doors policy’ introduced ad hoc by chancellor Merkel on September 4, 2015, as well as the hung parliament after the June elections on the Turkish side. Against this obvious entanglement of domestic and international issues, the article applies the basic logic of ‘two level games’ as introduced by Robert Putnam on the EU/German-Turkish negotiations leading up to the ‘refugee deal’ (EU action plan) of November 2015. Among others, it turned out that significant veto powers in both countries were not in sight and that a non-agreement would have raised the political costs for Germany more than for Turkey, thus enlarging the German ‘win-set’ size of acceptable solutions.  


Syrian refugee crisis, EU Action Plan, Turkey, Merkel, two-level analysis, win-set

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