This paper analyses the practical consequences of an agenda driven by the populist rhetoric while looking at the reasons for adopting the EU-Turkey deal. The study departs from the Paris attacks, examining the Islamic State’s strategy of linking migration with terrorism. Building on the intergovernmentalist theory and the principal-agent model, it then explores how that strategy helped fuel the populist speech of far-right parties across Europe, and specifically in Germany, arguing that populism forced Angela Merkel to advocate for the deal with Turkey at the European level as a way to conceal criticism at home. Finally, based on Europol’s expertise, it explains that the deal is not disrupting the business model of smugglers, which find alternative routes to sneak desperate people into Europe. Consequently, the EU-Turkey deal does not target the smugglers, as it claims, but the migrants themselves and especially those using the Eastern Mediterranean route. Based on this realisation, the paper suggests political actions to deal with terrorism, populism and migration.