EU urged to re-examine 2016 Turkey migration deal

The deal involved Ankara agreeing to control the flow of migrants to Europe in exchange for financial assistance and other steps including the easing of visa restrictions.

 

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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

16 Mar 2020

In a debate in Parliament last week some MEPs criticised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “using people’s suffering for political purposes.”

Some political group leaders called for a revision of the 2016 deal with Turkey, which was agreed in exchange for EU financial aid.

Others voiced “deep concern” about the deteriorating humanitarian situation both at the border with Turkey and on the Greek islands, where thousands of asylum-seekers, many of them unaccompanied minors, are stranded.


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The demand from some MEPs for the deal to be revisited comes in the wake of increased tensions on the Greek/Turkish border with thousands of migrants and asylum seekers attempting to gain entry to Greece.

Tens of thousands of migrants have been trying to get into EU member Greece since Turkey said last month that it would no longer keep them on its territory as part of the EU agreement.

President Erdogan, however, has said Ankara had upheld its side of the deal but that the EU had not.

Turkey says the EU has so far handed over only about half of the €6 billion initially promised to help house, feed, educate and care for the 3.6 million refugees living in Turkey.

Turkey also wants more European support over the war in Syria, where Turkish troops face off against Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

“A common European response is needed. What is important is that we provide humanitarian aid and defend the rule of law in Europe” Sven Giegold MEP, Tineke Strik MEP and Erik Marquardt MEP

Erdogan’s comments come after a meeting in Brussels earlier last week between himself and European Council President Charles Michel and his European Commission counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen.

After the meeting, Michel said, “We decided to task Josep Borrell, the High Representative, with his counterpart in Turkey, the minister of foreign affairs, to work in the next days in order to clarify the implementation of the deal between Turkey and the European Union.”

A commission spokesman said that the EU had made it clear at the meeting that “constructive engagement” is a precondition for any solution to the current situation and asked Turkey to decrease pressure at the border with Greece.

The fresh row between the EU and Turkey has revived memories of the 2015-16 migrant crisis, when more than one million people, mostly fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Asia, reached the EU via Turkey and Greece.

Erdogan said he would convene a summit in Istanbul on March 17 on the migrant issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, three Greens MEPs have issued a statement which accuses President Erdogan of “using the suffering of refugees to exert pressure on the EU.”

Sven Giegold, a German member, Dutch deputy Tineke Strik and German MEP Erik Marquardt, in the statement, said, “A humanitarian catastrophe is taking place on the Turkish-Greek border. After President Erdogan opened the border to Greece thousands of refugees set out to apply for asylum in the EU."

“It is important to strike a quick deal to tackle this emergency, but this should be seen as a temporary first aid measure. The EU needs to use the next few months to get serious about crafting a lucid, forward-looking policy on managing migration and refugee flows” Shada Islam, Friends of Europe

“In Greece, the police used violence to prevent people from entering the country.”

The statement goes on, “A common European response is needed. What is important is that we provide humanitarian aid and defend the rule of law in Europe.”

EPP leader Manfred Weber, separately, said that his group backed “more help for Greece and rejected attempts by Turkey to blackmail the EU into providing more funding by allowing migrants to mass at the Greek border.”

The German member said, “The EU is ready to discuss a new migration agreement with Turkey, but at the negotiating table.”

Further comment came from Friends of Europe’s Director of Europe and Geopolitics, Shada Islam, who said, “It’s time to stop posturing, arguing and playing the blame game and get serious about the humanitarian tragedy unfolding on the Greek/Turkish border. This requires moving away from simple single narratives about eachother.”

She went on, “It is important to strike a quick deal to tackle this emergency, but this should be seen as a temporary first aid measure. The EU needs to use the next few months to get serious about crafting a lucid, forward-looking policy on managing migration and refugee flows.”

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