EU-Turkey Summit Hopes for a Deal: Refugees, Aid and Membership

Written by | Friday, November 27th, 2015

The 28 EU Member States and the Turkish Prime Minister are going to meet on Sunday (29 November) to finalize an agreement on how to slow down the influx of refugees. The purpose of the meeting is, according to EU Council head Donald Tusk, to “re-energize our relations and stem [the] migration flow.” As it will be an irregular EU summit with Turkey, it is expected that all countries will send their top leadership. There are also expectations that the summit will yield an agreement between both parties, not only more fruitless discussions.

The potential EU-Turkey deal includes also financials and political concessions. Brussels is allegedly considering giving Turkey up to €3 billion for refugee facilities, restarting EU accession negotiations, boosting diplomatic ties and speeding up visa-free talks. However, most of these issues are in reality very problematic and the EU can easily end up committing itself only to holding regular EU-Turkey summits. Visas, for example, still cannot be waived due to technical and security requirements. When it comes to economic and monetary policy talks, chapter 17 of the EU entry rulebook is the only one that can be open by the end of this year. Other chapters are being blocked by Cyprus due to the Cyprus-Turkey territorial conflict. There is also the proposal to grant Turkey the status of a “safe country”, which means that migrants could be sent back there in spite of human rights violations. The country is currently home to about 2 million Syrian refugees and the number is expected to go up as a result of the Russian offensive in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Frans Timmermans, the Commissioner in charge of Turkey accession negotiations, said on the sidelines of the Prague European Summit, which took place earlier in November, that if EU members refuse to share refugees, it would cause a “cascade effect.” Commissioner Timmermans also stressed that “if we go down the road of every man for himself on the refugee crisis, it won’t just affect the way we deal with refugees, it will have profound ramifications for every aspect of European integration” and added that “one of my worries is that the European construction is thought of as being indestructible. I’m not saying today it’s going to be destroyed. But it isn’t indestructible.”

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