Elements of a Complex But Still Incomplete Puzzle: An Assessment of the EU(-Turkey) Summit

Written by | Monday, April 25th, 2016

Janis A. Emmanouilidis (European Policy Centre)

Following the meeting of the representatives of the EU and Turkey, which took place in early March, there was a tense atmosphere among the EU Member States. The draft agreement between the EU and Turkey presented to the participants of the negotiation had emerged from a meeting that was attended only by the leaders of the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey. The agreement was, however, concluded at the summit on 17-18 March. Several states had reservations or concerns but at the same time they were also afraid of the consequences in case the negotiations failed. Despite the eventual agreement, doubts persist as to whether the aims of the deal will be achieved, that is whether illegal migration to Europe will be curbed.

The agreement contains two main points. The first one talks about the return of illegal migrants from Greece to Turkey. The emphasis is placed on the compliance with the EU legislation and international law. It also means that migrants will be registered and asylum applications examined individually. Applications of those migrants who have applied for international protection in Turkey or persons for whom Turkey is the so-called “safe third country” might be dismissed. However, there are doubts as to whether Turkey meets the particular standards. According to the Union and Athens, the country keeps sufficient standards. However, there is a need to increase protection of Syrians and other nationalities, which have not yet been granted a refugee status. In Turkey and Greece, the processing of asylum applications will have to be sped up and accommodation capacities improved and increased for those who are waiting for their completion.

The second major point talks about the system, under which there will be, for each migrant returned to Turkey, a Syrian relocated to the EU. The system counts with 72,000 places previously reserved for migrants. According to the adopted mechanism, however, individuals who attempt an illegal EU migration de facto lose their chance to be relocated. This condition should lead to a decline in illegal migration to Europe thanks to which the number of displaced persons would not exceed the existing capacity. Still, questions remain about the willingness of EU countries to accept those people. These doubts are, however, refuted by the existing argument that such states will have to resettle fewer migrants currently living elsewhere in the Union and also thanks to the acceptance of the agreement by these countries. Although Ankara put forward a number of requirements related to the accession negotiations, as well as the liberalization of visa conditions and provision of financial support, it has only been partially successful in achieving them. Turkey has also committed itself to undertake necessary measures needed to prevent the migrants from finding alternative migration routes over land and offshore.

(The study can be downloaded here:http://www.epc.eu/pub_details.php?cat_id=5&pub_id=6417)

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