Wednesday

19th Sep 2018

Greek 'wall' is negative symbol, Turkey says

Turkey's EU affairs minister has described the Greek anti-migrant fence as a symbol of division between the Union and outside countries.

Alluding to the Berlin wall, which used to separate western Europe from the Soviet bloc, Egemen Bagis told EUobserver on Wednesday (8 February): "It is not the time to talk about new walls in Europe - we need to talk about new bridges. Europe paid the cost of walls in the recent past and ... everyone should work to build new bridges between different views, different cultures and different countries [instead]."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He added that "Turkey is a bridge between east and west" and that the Islamic country's EU membership would "symbolise an alliance of civilizations."

Greece this week began construction of a razor-wire barrier on its 13-km-long land border with Turkey.

The fence is designed to deter the thousands of people from Asia and north Africa who come each month to seek asylum in the Union.

The European Commission has described it as "pointless." A Brussels-based NGO, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said it would be a "tragedy" if it keeps out people fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria.

The Turkish minister's remarks come in the context of prickly EU-Turkey relations - accession talks stopped over a year ago and the EU refuses to start negotiations on visa-free travel.

"The citizens of Belize, Paraguay, the 190 million citizens of Brazil, or the citizens of Malaysia - with all due respect to them - can travel to the [EU passport-free] Schengen zone without a visa, but my citizens have to wait in line ... it is not correct," he noted.

The EU says it will start visa talks only if Turkey signs a pact on taking back illegal migrants.

Bagis said the visa talks must come first: "Turkey is ready to initial the readmission agreement if the EU Council authorises the commission to launch visa facilitation talks leading to visa liberalisation."

Greece is one of the main opponents of Turkey's EU entry due to its occupation of northern Cyprus.

Bagis described Greece and Turkey as being "very close friends." But he highlighted that Turkey is enjoying an economic boom even as Greece faces ruin.

"I was in Athens for a short holiday last month and I saw that Greece needs the active support of its friends as it struggles with the impact of the financial crisis. Turkey is among those countries that can help," he noted.

Free press on trial in EU aspirant Turkey

The trial of 11 journalists - including Turkey's "last investigative reporter" - begins on Tuesday in a country which says it wants to join the EU.

Greece struggling to manage asylum seekers

Nearly 30,000 irregular border crossings were detected on Europe’s external borders in the last three months of 2011, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

Opinion

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us