Saturday

26th May 2018

Turkey sends EU mixed message on migration

  • "Turkey remains committed" to the migration agreement with the EU, its minister of EU affairs told foreign ministers. (Photo: eu2016sk/Flickr)

Turkey reassured the EU on Saturday (3 September) that it would continue to implement a deal to stem the flow of migrants to Europe, but said it would not make further moves unless it is granted visa-free EU travel.

"Turkey remains committed to the 18 March consensus," Turkey's EU affairs minister Omer Celik said after a meeting in Bratislava with EU foreign affairs ministers.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“We will continue to implement it out of humanitarian reasons,” he added.

He said that the one-to-one mechanism, by which the EU resettles a Syrian refugee from Turkey for every migrant that Turkey takes back from Greece, was working.

But he warned that Turkey would not be ready to do more as long as there is no easing of the visa regime for its citizens traveling to Europe.

"Without visa liberalisation, Turkey will not be part of any new mechanism," he said.

The acceleration of the visa liberalisation process was promised by the EU as part of the March deal, under the condition that Turkey fulfills 72 benchmarks.

Six of them remains to be met, including a change in Turkey's anti-terror law, which the EU says uses defines terrorism too broadly.

Celik warned that Turkey would not amend the law as long as Turkey faces a terrorist threat.

"It is not rational to expect from Turkey to make any change in Turkish anti-terror law" in current circumstances, Celik said, referring to the recent wave of attacks in Turkey attributed to the Islamic State and the Kurdish PKK guerillas.

Ankara's position on anti-terror law and visa liberalisation leaves the EU in a dilemma over whether to accept a watering down of its requirements to maintain Turkey's cooperation in the migration crisis.

Whereas EU diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini said that management of the migration crisis and visa liberalisation were "separate issue[s]", Turkey has lumped both together and has ruled out agreement to EU demands for change.

Instead Celik said that Turkey could take "some commitments about some steps" that would reassure the EU and the Council of Europe that it would not use its legislation extensively in a way that threatens the rule of law.

"In the meantime we could go ahead with visa liberalisation," he said.

"Work is ongoing," Mogherini said, adding that she hoped that the EU would "manage to end in the direction that politically we decided".

'First class democracy'

The priority for the EU on Saturday was to renew a dialogue with Turkey after weeks of criticism by Turkish officials of the EU's lack of solidarity in addressing the attempted coup in July, reciprocated by the EU criticism of Ankara about the crackdown that followed.

The meeting between EU ministers and Turkey's Celik was "long and very substantial," an EU source said. "It was very fruitful," Celik told journalists.

He said that he "expressed clearly" to EU ministers that his government and the Turkish people "were disappointed" by the EU's lack of support after the failed coup.

"Turkey has a first class democracy," he said. "No one should be teaching democracy lessons to Turkey. Turkey has democracy lessons to teach to others."

EU ministers, for their part, reiterated their support of Turkey's democratic institutions and, according to Celik, "with very good will said they understood that solidarity they expressed was not sufficient".

EU officials felt that some kind of mea culpa was necessary to resume dialogue with the Turks because "their pride was injured," the EU source said.

Several ministers and officials recognised that the EU had underestimated the shock the coup was for Turkish officials.

"Some of them were directly targeted, they were supposed to be killed," the source noted.

In a statement that was used both by Mogherini and Celik, the EU and Turkey agreed that they need to "talk less about each other and more with each other".

After Austria's push for a suspension, doubts about the future of EU accession negotiations with Turkey were also apparently erased.

Mogherini insisted that Turkey was still an EU candidate country, which gave the EU the right to have dialogue with "no taboo" on issues such as the rule of law, the right to fair trial or freedom and expression and the media.

The main issue that could block the process could be the re-introduction of the death penalty in Turkey. But Celik assured the EU that the death penalty was not on the Turkish assembly agenda and that "no decision whatsoever" as been taken about it.

Turkey purge intensifies, amid EU visa demands

Ankara has refused to amend its terror laws in line with EU preconditions for a visa-waiver pact, but Turkey says it will scrap its migrant deal with the EU if visas are not lifted.

EU in Turkey charm offensive

EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos said he hopes to one day travel to Turkey without a passport in a statement that aims to smooth over tensions with Turkey in the wake of the military coup.

EU and Erdogan try to defuse tensions

Top EU officials posed for friendly photos with Turkish president Erdogan in China, but the Turkish leader accused the West of "racist" attitudes toward refugees.

Analysis

EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.

Opinion

Ratifying CETA after 'Achmea scandal' is anti-European

While few people in Europe have heard of the 'Achmea' ruling, the case will have far-reaching consequences. Member states must understand the implications of the case quickly - especially those considering ratifying the EU-Canada trade agreement.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations