Monday

20th Nov 2017

Tusk: EU can't 'outsource' borders to Turkey

  • Tusk called the summit amid concerns Schengen is falling asunder (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU Council chief Donald Tusk has warned that a deal with Turkey won't be enough to protect EU external borders and internal free movement.

Speaking ahead of a Turkey summit in Brussels on Sunday (29 November), he said: “Turkey is not the only key to solving the migration crisis. The more important one is our duty and responsibility to protect our external borders. We can’t outsource this to any third country.”

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  • Tusk: 'Without control of our external borders, Schengen will become history' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

He added: “I’ll repeat again: Without control of our external borders, Schengen will become history.”

Tusk called Sunday’s meeting amid concern the mass arrivals will see EU states re-impose internal borders, destroying the Schengen free-travel area, which underpins the single market, and, in turn, the euro and EU integration more broadly.

According to a draft statement, to be finalised Sunday, the EU and Turkey will “step up their active cooperation on migrants who are not in need of international protection, preventing travel to Turkey and the EU, ensuring the application of the established bilateral readmission provisions and swiftly returning migrants who are not in need of international protection to their countries of origin.”

In return, Turkey is to get “an initial €3 billion” to improve conditions in refugee camps, with extra funds to be made available “in the light of the developing situation.”

The EU-Turkey accession process is to be “re-energised” by opening a new chapter, on economic policy, at an intergovernmental conference on 14 December.

The EU set a date for Turkey visa-free travel “by October 2016,” if technical conditions are fulfilled.

It also put Turkey on par with world powers such as China, Russia, and the US, by planning to hold twice-yearly summits and regular foreign minister-level “dialogues.”

For her part, German leader Angela Merkel, speaking on Sunday, endorsed the agreement, saying that Turkey, which has spent $8 billion on hosting refugees, “rightly expects that the EU will relieve its burden.”

French president Francois Hollande said: “We need an action plan … so that refugees are taken care of in Turkey, closer to their country of origin, and that Turkey takes steps to control its border.”

“It’s in the interests of refugees to stay close to their country of origin."

The Turkish PM put the emphasis on his political gains.

“This is a historic day in terms of our accession process … we will be sharing the future destiny of our continent,” he said. “It’s the beginning of a new process which is very important for the future of our common home.”

Greek leader Alexis Tsipras was among the few delegates who spoke of treating migrants “humanely.”

With people crossing from Turkey to the myriad Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, he laid responsibility for border control on the Turkish side. “We have to be sure the Turkish authorities do what they have to do, because no one can afford these amazing flows [of people]," he said.

Implementation concerns

With Turkey angling for €3 billion per year in EU aid, the Dutch leader, Mark Rutte, noted that Ankara will have to deliver “concrete results” before the EU “pours in even more money” on top of the €3 billion.

But doubts also remain on the EU’s ability to deliver.

The EU Commission is giving €500 million for the new fund, with the rest to come from member states. But as of Friday, the UK is the only country to have pledged any money (€10mn).

Austrian leader Werner Faymann, speaking to the Kurier daily on Saturday, also voiced scepticism Turkey will ever join the Union.

He said Austrian people would need to back the move in a referendum and that they would vote No, advocating a “priviliged partnership” with Ankara instead.

Disunity

Lack of internal EU solidarity was also on show.

The Slovak PM noted that his country, as well as Hungary, are launching court cases against an EU plan to redistribute asylum seekers.

For its part, Macedonia is constructing a razor wire fence on its Greek border, causing potential bottlenecks in Greece.

But when asked on the development, Zoran Milanovic, the Croatian leader said only: “If they’re putting up a fence, we won’t have to follow suit because they’ll stop it all.”

David Cameron, the British leader, voiced satisfaction the UK isn’t part of Schengen, noting: “Britain in the EU will keep our border controls. It’s vital for our security that we do.”

Human rights

Sunday’s summit is taking place amid an outcry by human rights groups on developments in Turkey.

Last week, it arrested two of its best known journalists - Can Dundar and Erdem Gul - for reporting that Turkish intelligence is supplying arms to Islamic State.

On Saturday, an unknown gunman also shot dead a leading pro-Kurdish human rights lawyer - Tahir Elci - prompting street protests.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini was the only one to mention Elci’s murder, saying she wants to “stigmatise this terrible thing.”

She promised the future ministerial dialogues with Turkey will address “difficult issues,” including “human rights, media freedom, and the need to restart the peace process with the Kurds.”

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