Turkey as Partner of the EU in the Refugee Crisis

Written by | Monday, March 7th, 2016

Günter Seufert (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik)

At the end of November last year, an emergency EU-Turkey Summit took place, mainly focusing on the implementation of the Joint Action Plan aimed at stepping up cooperation with Turkey. According to the action plan, Turkey should, among others, carry out a stricter control of its borders and implement the re-admission agreements with Greece and Bulgaria before June 2016. The European Union acknowledged that the Schengen countries would be, in return, willing to relax the visa regime for Turkish citizens. The Union also confirmed the provision of financial assistance for Turkey and both parties also agreed to intensify the organization of EU-Turkey Summits that should be held regularly twice a year. It remains to be seen if Turkey fulfills the points included in the Joint Action Plan. It is already obvious that, because of the refugee crisis, Turkey has to deal with many financial and political problems.

According to recent opinion polls, the attitude of the Turks towards refugees is getting increasingly negative. For example, 70 percent believe that the acceptance of migrants threatens state security. Moreover, the acceptance of refugees is in conflict with the deep-rooted paradigm whose aim is a culturally homogeneous society. For this reason, a special legislation (Iskan Kanunu) was adopted in 1934, which limited the granting of the Turkish citizenship to those individuals who do not proclaim their adherence to the Turkish culture. In 2006, the above-mentioned legislation was amended and it is valid until today. Although Turkey ratified some major international treaties on refugee law in the past, it is necessary for Ankara to reform certain internal laws and regulations. In October 2014, the legislation regarding the so-called temporary protection of refugees was adopted, guaranteeing, for example, the right of refugees to medical assistance.

In recent years, Turkey has been relatively open to accepting refugees not only for humanitarian but also for political reasons, since it hoped that this could have a significant impact on the newly formed Syria in the future. Davuto?lu’s government moreover argued that it was necessary to cancel the flight zone over Turkey because of the high number of Syrian immigrants. This step was meant to weaken the Syrian air force and while, on the contrary, it should have played into the hands of the Syrian rebels. The EU has long been motivated to cooperate with Turkey for several reasons. First and foremost, thanks to the Turkey-EU partnership, it could influence Turkish foreign and security policy. This could be very beneficial for the fight against terrorism, which nowadays seems to be a decisive argument for many experts.

(The study can be downloaded here:https://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/comments/2016C01_srt.pdf)

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