MEPs welcome EU-Turkey action plan but question Erdoğan's human rights record

Turkey has a key strategic role in resolving the refugee crisis, though closer diplomatic ties should be viewed with caution.

By William Louch

08 Oct 2015

The European Commission has released a draft action plan to step up EU-Turkey cooperation on managing the refugee crisis. The plan includes a series of short and medium-term measures to be implemented as a matter of urgency by the EU and Turkey.

Turkey currently hosts over 2 million Syrian refugees and is a main route for refugees attempting to enter Europe. The measures will provide support to the refugees in Turkey and strengthen efforts to prevent migrants attempting to enter Europe illegally.

Action follows the chaos caused by an unprecedented influx of refugees into Europe in recent few months. A lack of coherent strategy from EU member states has seen one of the cornerstones of the EU project - the Schengen agreement - threatened, with countries reintroducing border controls and, in the case of Hungary, building razor-wire fences to keep out refugees.


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MEPs have welcomed the action plan; though they say more needs to be done.

Jan Zahradril, a member of Parliament's EU-Turkey delegation said, "this action plan is something we in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group have been calling for a long time. Increased support not only for Turkey, but for Lebanon and Jordan is the very first step."

Marietje Schaake, of Parliament's Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, welcomes, "better cooperation between the EU and Turkey," saying, "the plan must help increase the quality of shelter and registration and curb the smuggling of people to the EU."

However, she noted that, "without an end to the war in Syria, even billions of Euros will not meet the humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions."

She called for the EU to, "urgently come up with a joint position and a comprehensive plan."

Turkey is seen as key in finding a solution to the problem. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and Francois Hollande, the French President, both highlighted the importance of Turkey in the managing the crisis, as has Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Merkel said, "Turkey plays a key role; it is Europe's immediate neighbour and a starting point for irregular migration."

She highlighted, "the extraordinary things they have done for 2 million refugees," and called on the EU to help Turkey" in accommodating refugees and tackling traffickers."

Hollande reiterated these sentiments saying, "We must provide Turkey with assistance, we must ensure refugees there can work, whether they are in camps or in the community."

Juncker also cited the need to, "step up help for Turkey to improve reception facilities for refugees," adding, "In the refugee crisis, Turkey and the EU walk together and work together."

The move to deepen diplomatic ties with Turkey has not been without controversy, as Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has come under fire for his treatment of the press, political opponents and the Kurds.

Richard Howitt, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group's foreign affairs coordinator said, "the fight against terrorism cannot be used as a pretext for what appears to be a wave of attacks by the Turkish government against political opponents."

The co-chair of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, Rebecca Harms, also said, "talk to Erdoğan to make sure Turkey does its fair share," though she emphasised, "it is wrong to avoid talking about his escalation towards the Kurds."

She added that the EU must, "ask Erdoğan to come back to the path of democracy."

In return for helping resolve the refugee crisis, Erdoğan has previously called for the EU to list Turkey as "a safe third country", which would disregard its questionable human rights and press freedoms record.

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