Sunday

7th Mar 2021

EU calls Turkey summit despite security scare

  • Davutoglu (l) and Tusk. 'If [Erdogan] doesn’t come, the whole idea of the summit is a bit silly,' an EU diplomat said (Photo: European council)

The Turkish PM and up to 28 EU leaders are to meet in Brussels on Sunday (29 November) to finalise a deal on slowing the flow of refugees.

Donald Tusk, the EU Council head, announced the event on Twitter on Monday, saying the purpose is to “re-energise our relations & stem [the] migration flow.”

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An EU source noted: “We invited Turkey. But it’s our understanding that prime minister [Ahmet] Davutoglu will be coming instead of president [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.”

He noted the format - an irregular EU summit plus Turkey - means EU countries are obliged to send their top people.

He said the meeting “should be for finalising an agreement, not just for further discussions.”

With the EU capital, on Tuesday, in its fourth day of a security lockdown due to what Belgium is calling “precise” intelligence of an “imminent” jihadist attack, the EU source added: “We consulted with the Belgian security services, as we always do prior to a summit, and we agreed to hold the event.”

The EU-Turkey deal covers financial aid and political concessions.

A senior EU diplomat told EUobserver the bloc is offering up to €3 billion for refugee facilities in Turkey, accelerating visa-free talks, restarting EU accession talks, and upgrading diplomatic relations.

He noted the upgrade, which involves holding regular EU-Turkey summits, is the only thing which negotiators from EU institutions can offer with a free hand, however.

He said the EU Commission plans to put up “less than half” of the €3 billion from the common budget, with member states to pledge the rest, on the model of a recently-agreed EU-Africa fund.

He said the EU can make a political statement on visas, but it cannot waive its own technical requirements, including security requirements, on the process.

He also said chapter 17 of the EU entry rulebook, on economic and monetary policy, is the only one which could be opened by the end of the year, due to Cyprus’ vetoes on other chapters in a situation linked to the old Cyprus-Turkey territorial dispute.

He noted the status of a further proposal - to grant Turkey “safe country” status, meaning asylum seekers can be sent back there despite human rights violations - is “up in the air.”

No show

With Erdogan to stay away, the EU diplomat poured cold water on expectations that Sunday’s meeting will produce a definitive accord.

“If he [Erdogan] doesn’t come, the whole idea of the summit is a bit silly because he’s the one who makes all the decisions. The PM doesn’t make any important decisions in Turkey.”

Turkey currently hosts more than 2 million Syrian refugees.

The mass exodus to Europe, via the Greek islands and the Western Balkans, has slowed due to poor weather.

But a Russian military offensive, in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who has slaughtered more than a quarter of a million civilians, is expected to see the numbers go up again.

The refugee crisis has prompted razor wire fences to go up on the EU’s external and internal borders and led to dire warnings on the future of EU integration.

Frans Timmermans, the commissioner in charge of Turkey talks, told the Prague European Summit, a conference in the Czech capital earlier this month, that if EU states refuse to share the refugee burden, it will create a “cascade effect."

EU fears

“If we go down the road of every man for himself on the refugee crisis, it won’t just affect the way we deal with refugees, it will have profound ramifications for every aspect of European integration," he said.

“One of my worries is that the European construction is thought of as being indestructible. I’m not saying today it’s going to be destroyed. But it isn’t indestructible."

Other EU politicians, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, have warned the crisis could also prompt instability in fragile Western Balkan states.

Speaking at the Prague event, Igor Luksic, the foreign minister of Montenegro, said: “What happens the next day, if Germany [the refugees' preferred destination] closes its border and tens of thousands of people end up stuck in the [Western Balkans] region? Today, Montenegro and Albania aren’t affected. But they could be the next day.”

Shadow economy

For his part, Marc Pierini, the former EU ambassador to Turkey, who now works for the Carnegie Europe think tank, told this website Turkey is unlikely to stop refugees due to the black market income it would lose.

“Given the numbers of migrants, and how much they pay human smugglers for the passage to Greece, it’s my conservative estimate that the crisis has created a €2 billion a year shadow economy,” he said.

Timmermans, Luksic, and Perini spoke before the Paris attacks.

But the linkage of the Paris terrorists with refugees by French and Turkish security services, who allege some of the attackers entered the EU posing as Syrian asylum seekers, has made the atmosphere more toxic.

Poland, earlier this week, said the EU should suspend its refugee quota scheme due to security concerns.

Hungary also joined Slovakia in filing a court case against the EU scheme.

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