Migration and Refugee Crisis: EU Sets 10 Days To Finalize Agreement with Turkey


Time: 2:28 p.m. CEST Latest update: March 8, 2016 6:08 a.m. CEST

First moves by some of the European Union states came hours after the ending of the unofficial one-day summit of the EU with Turkey on the migrant and refugee crisis. Slovenia, one of the countries along the Balkan route limited the entry of migrants beginning March 9. Serbia’s government explained that Slovenia “will demand on March 9 that any person entering its territory must have a valid EU visa.” Serbia, not yet an EU member said it will apply similar approach, as already returning some people to Macedonia. Macedonia also closed the passing for refugees and migrants at Gevgelija near the border with Greece at Idomeni, where in the fall the army and police build razor fence.

From left to right: Mr Ahmet Davutoglu, Prime Minister of Turkey; Mr Donald Tusk, President of the European Council; Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. (Courtesy to European Union)
From left to right: Mr Ahmet Davutoglu, Prime Minister of Turkey; Mr Donald Tusk, President of the European Council; Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. (Courtesy of European Union)

The European Union and Turkey agree on several issues, but the new agreement with Turkey on the migrant crisis will wait for the upcoming EU Council meeting on March, 17 and 18 in Brussels. The EU imposed a set of deadline of 10 days to complete a new agreement with Ankara on the flow of migrants. The last-night summit between 28 and Turkey has only pay the way for the new promise of new negotiations on March 17 and 18.

“The flow of migrants passing from Turkey to Greece remains much too high and needs to be brought down significantly,” President of the European Council Donald Tusk said. As Tusk said, the EU “welcomed new, bold proposals made today by Turkey to further address this crisis. We agreed to work by the following principles:

  • the return of all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands;
  • the acceleration of the implementation of the visa liberalization roadmap;
  • the speeding up the disbursement of the three billion euros and additional funding for the Refugee Facility for Syrians;
  • the preparation for the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations;
  • the possibility of establishing in Syria areas which will be more safe;
  • And finally to resettle Syrian refugees on a one-for-one basis.

The EU will offer further help to manage the external border in Greece, “including those with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania.” As said in the statement of the European Council, “Heads of State or Government further recalled that the European Council, at its meeting on 18-19 February, decided to get back to a situation where all Members of the Schengen area fully apply the Schengen Borders Code, while taking into account the specificities of the maritime borders, and to end the wave-through approach.”

In addition,Tusk announced the decision by the EU leaders on the Balkan route. “To end the ‘wave-through approach’ which means that the irregular flow of migrants along the Western Balkan route have now come to an end,” Tusk explained.

“All the above mentioned decisions send a very clear message that the days of illegal migration to Europe are over.”

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

EU_Greece_Turkey.jpg

From left to right: Mr Mevlüt Cavusoglu, Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs; Mr Ahmet Davutoglu, Prime Minister of Turkey; Mr Volkan Bozkir, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs; Mr Alexis Tsipras, Greek Prime Minister. (Courtesy to European Council)

Turkey’s proposal to the European Union contains promise it would halt a wave of migrants into Europe in return for more financial aid, faster membership talks and quicker visa-free travel for Turkish residents, but the EU take more time to consider the proposal.

Unable to reach an agreement over the day, the EU head of states or governments continue the talk with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for a possible solution. European President Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff said on Twitter “a breakthrough during the night is possible.” Davutoğlu said that Turkey could take back all migrants who will enter Europe from Turkey after a set date. The EU leaders send the text back for redrafting and will meet Davutoğlu again.

But, the issues of migration and current refugee crisis are not the only one that creates disagreements. Reuters reports that EU sources said, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi “was prepared to block any summit statement, unless a reference to media freedom was included.” Such possible reactions came after Turkish court set a trustee for newspaper Zaman in Turkey, something that is seen as a takeover from the government.

The European Union leaders started on Monday one-day summit in Brussels. Shortly before the beginning of the summit, the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey, countries affected with the migrants and refugees flows, addressed the press in Brussels. Both pledged on the EU “solidarity.”

“The only way to respond to this challenge is solidarity,” Turkish Prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said before the meeting. With the notion that the whole future of the continent is at stake, Davutoğlu explained that not only “irregular migration, but also Turkey accession process, would have a turning point in our relations.”

The EU wants to decrease the flow of migrants and it would discuss the closing of the Balkan route. But, it will press Turkey to take back economic migrants and could give Ankara support of three billion euros, or $3,3 billion.

Most of the migrants and refugees arriving in Turkey from Syria and other countries from the Middle East continue with their travel toward Europe passing through Balkan states. Recently, the eight countries introduced stricter border controls, about 13.000 migrants are in Idomeni, Greece after Macedonia, supported by Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia decreased drastically the number of refugees and migrants through their borders.

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras complained on Monday, that between two summits, “there were agreements that weren’t implemented for everybody.” Addressing the press, Tsipras said that this is our European problem.

“In order to implement the action plan, in order to decrease substantially the flows, and the smugglers network, it is necessary to accelerate re-allocation process,” Tsipras stated before the beginning of the summit.

EU states remain divided about the approach to the crisis, with countries holding back their previous welcomes to the refugees. Anti-migrant parties gain some of the elections in some of the EU countries. For example, those parties gain a general election in Slovakia.

Some of the countries, like Austria pushed the Balkan states toward stricter rules for refugees and migrants weeks before today’s summit, while a draft-summit communiqué on Sunday said, “irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans are coming to an end; this route is closed.” But, as BBC said, sources from the German government explained, “this line had not been agreed.”

Some of the countries, like Austria pushed the Balkan states toward stricter rules for refugees and migrants weeks before today’s summit, while a draft-summit communiqué on Sunday said, “irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans are coming to an end; this route is closed.” But, as BBC said, sources from the German government explained, “this line had not been agreed.”

The strongest oppose to Germany is Austria; a country that undertake unilateral steps with several Balkan countries and introduced stricter border controls. Reuters says, Austrian Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner reflected those actions when asked about use of force to close borders to migrants.

“If necessary, we must set such an example to show that a border is really a border. Naturally, we should be careful to use means that do not endanger lives,” he said in an ATV interview.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban before the meeting demanded that Europe should shut its borders to the migrants. Orban said that Hungary wouldn’t participate in any resettlement plan and that “nothing should be done without the closing of the borders,” eKhatimerini on English said.

The latest developments in Europe provoke reactions of the White House after a question of a correspondent during the daily news briefing. The White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he is not aware of any call by the President Barack Obama with Prime Minister Tsipras.

Earnest said that, “there is not denying that the flow of migrants largely from Iraq and Syria has strained the solidarity of the European Union.” As Earnest explained this will be the challenge for the European Union. “The U.S. would support EU and our allies in Europe as they confront this threat, but ultimately this is something it will be their responsibility,” Earnest said.

What is NATO doing?

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had begun patrols in the Aegean to support efforts to locate migrant boats, overcoming territorial sensitivities in Greece and Turkey to patrol in the waters of both NATO states. “NATO is starting activities in territorial waters today,” he told a joint news conference in Brussels with Davutoglu.”We are expanding our cooperation with the EU’s border agency, Frontex, and we are expanding the number of ships in our deployment,” he said, saying that France and Britain had agreed to send ships to the Aegean. (Reuters)

The White House greeted the NATO efforts on Monday. “There are reports that NATO has become dedicated resources to countering human smuggling and human trafficking in the Aegean. We have long acknowledged that political failure of the Assad’s regime inside Syria has a variety of negative consequences. The only way to address this is to fight political chaos and turmoil in Syria,” Earnest said.

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