They may be all smiles for the cameras, but the issues Angela Merkel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are set to discuss – from Syrian refugees to Turkey’s attempts to join the EU – may stall talks and deteriorate relations even further.

And both sides have more to play for this time round than political point-scoring.

The festering wound of Syria continues to provide pain for Turkey, which already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees. Now the prospect of further trouble around the city of Idlib means more migrants could be heading Turkey’s way in the not too distant future as they flee the mayhem.

And while Turkey came to the rescue of a panicked EU during the last major migrant push from the war-torn hellhole that is Syria, the promises made at the time by EU leaders in order for President Erdogan to play ball have simply not been fulfilled.

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So the German chancellor finds herself on the way to Ankara for talks with the Turkish hardman, a gambit the EU hopes will be more conciliatory than sending, say, Emmanuel Macron.

Because high on the list will be four questions, in no particular order: first, where is the rest of the six billion euros you promised us last time to help deal with this influx of migrants; second, what happened to the visa-free travel deal you mentioned for Turks wanting to travel to the EU; third, where are we with Turkish accession to the EU; and finally, what’s happening with the weapons exports ban?

The first issue is easy enough. Merkel just needs to make the outstanding payment guarantees that Turkey is seeking and it’s ‘job done’. After all, why let 3.7 billion euros come between friends?

As for the second matter – visa-free travel – well, that’s a tricky one. The way the EU would look at it is this: Turkey is a nation of 80 million people. What if they were all granted visa-free travel throughout Europe? We need some more time on this one.

Because that could lead to issue number three: accession to the EU. You’d think the Turks would have given up, remembering they first made their application to become an EU member back in 1987. But no, they persist.

Accession would not only bring with it trade and free movement of people, it would also see Europe’s borders moved right up to Iran, Iraq and Syria. Boris Johnson used the idea of Turkey’s EU accession as a scare tactic during the Brexit referendum. While he had to ride out the race storm that followed, there is no doubt that it was a very effective threat.

Now that London’s views don’t carry the same weight in Brussels as they once might have, don’t think there is a softening on Turkey’s accession. The idea sends a chill wind through the grey corridors of the European headquarters.

Not that anyone needs to tell Angela Merkel much about the resistance to immigration from the East. After 14 years as the first female chancellor, and with an amazing story for a modest scientist born in East Germany, it is most likely she will be remembered for opening the immigration floodgates to her country in 2015, which saw one million refugees arrive – mostly Syrian – in the largest immigration influx since WWII.

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She needs to ensure the cooperation of the Turkish president to make sure that does not happen again, because that would guarantee her time in office was remembered not for her achievements, but for a catastrophic misreading of her nation’s mood. (RT)