Domestic election difficulties in Germany place EU-Turkey deal under pressure

Losses for CDU and rise of AfD weaken Angela Merkel''s ability to drive EU-Turkey deal with other European leaders.

By Colin Mackay

15 Mar 2016

The damage suffered by Angela Merkel's ruling coalition in Germany by the anti-immigration AfD part have put the recent agreement between the EU and Turkey under pressure. The German Chancellor was a leading mover in brokering the deal. However, the agreement was already fragile, and the perceived weakness of Merkel at home has emboldened other EU leaders to voice their reservations.

A particular area of concern is the proposal to allow visa free travel in the Schengen area for Turkish citizens. French President François Hollande has said that; "There cannot be any concessions on the matter of human rights or the criteria for visa liberalisation." He also told French newspaper Le Monde  that he was, "totally opposed to the removal of visas" for Turkey's 80 million population.

Meanwhile, Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo described the draft deal as unacceptable, saying any agreement must be, "coherent, compatible with international law, and extraordinarily respectful towards the human rights of the persons that need to flee from their home country."


Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has also voiced disquiet. In a letter to Council President Donald Tusk, he said, "Bulgaria would not be ready to accept a partial Turkish engagement that will most probably lead to opening up of new migration routes".

Meanwhile, Cypriot foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides has also expressed misgivings. Turkey wishes to link the migration issue with its long-standing desire for EU accession. Kasoulides reminded EU policymakers of Cyprus's willingness to veto any talks that address Turkish EU accession, an issue that Merkel had been keen to support in the past.

One slightly more conciliatory voice came from Austria, with Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz saying, "I expect we can make a deal with Turkey", but at the same time warning, "we can't put ourselves at their mercy".
EU officials say that a deal with Turkey can be done that is both legally and ethically defensible. However, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker conceded that Greece and Turkey may have to make legislative changes in order to make any agreement compliant with the Geneva convention.


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