Saturday

18th Nov 2017

EU hopes €3bn will see Turkey halt migrants

  • Ankara: Erdogan's decision to send Davutoglu indicates lack of will to implement deal (Photo: Jorge Franganillo)

EU leaders and Turkey’s PM will, on Sunday (27 November), finalise a €3 billion deal to stop migrants coming to Europe, in talks held in the shadow of the Turkey-Russia confrontation.

An EU official told press on Friday: “We have agreed on the Action Plan in principle, implementation is needed.”

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  • Will EU leaders criticise Erdogan's latest press crackdown? (Photo: bunyms)

They added: “We can be confident that Turkey will live up to its part of the agreement … The money is on the table. We need Turkey to come up with its side of the agreement, opening the labour market for refugees, educating kids, integrating them, and controlling their borders.”

The €3 billion aside, the EU is offering to open a new chapter in Turkey accession talks (chapter 17, on economic policy, in December), and to speed up arrangements for visa-free travel.

It remains to be seen if EU leaders will speak out on Turkey’s jailing, on Thursday, of two of its top journalists - Can Dundar and Erdem Gul.

But the commission, for its part, has already shown that another part of the deal is to keep quiet on human rights, by delaying, in October, a Turkey-critical report until after the ruling party had won elections.

High stakes

Turkey hosts 2.5 million Syrian refugees, which, this year, began a mass exodus to, mainly, Germany via Greece and the Western Balkans.

It is also transit route for people from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The stakes are the highest for the migrants: six children died on Friday when boats capsized in waters between Bodrum, Turkey, and the Greek island of Kos.

The stakes are also high for Europe, however.

The situation has prompted several EU states to reimpose border controls inside the Schengen free movement zone, a jewel of EU integration.

It has also prompted a dispute on how to share asylum seekers. Hungary and Slovakia are taking the EU Commission to court on its relocation scheme. Poland says it wants out in case migrants are terrorists.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, whose country takes over the EU presidency on 1 January, said on Friday that unless the Greek-Turkey border is brought under control “then maybe we will have to do it on the level of a mini-Schengen zone.”

Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM, told reporters in The Hague on Thursday: “We need to stem the flow of migrants coming to Europe. We can’t continue at the present level and we need Turkey for that.”

He added that once the €3 billion deal is in place, the EU will start sending refugees back to Turkish camps.

“A form of resettlment will be part of the deal … In the end its always less expensive than having people here and it’s easier for them to return to Syria from Turkey.”

Implementation

It isn’t proving easy to come up with the €3 billion sum, however.

The EU Commission has put up €500 million and the rest is to come from member states’ pledges, based on the size of their economies, or GNIs.

The money is to be ready by 1 January. But as of Friday, the EU said, the UK was the only member state to have pledged anything (a €10 mn tranche).

Rutte noted the Dutch share, based on GNI, should be €70 million. But he added: “We’ll deliver our fair share, if others do.”

He added the money will be spent “on Turkey, not on [Turkish president] Erdogan.”

But high-level corruption in Turkey, including by close members of the president’s family, is causing concern the EU funds will be, in part, stolen.

Corruption makes Turkey less likely to crack down on migrant smuggling - a shadow economy worth more than €1 billion a year.

The fact Erdogan is sending his PM, Ahmet Davutoglu, to Brussels instead of coming himself also “allows him to disown the [EU] deal down the line if he needs to,” an EU diplomat said.

Russia

Meanwhile, the root cause of the refugee crisis - the Syria war - shows no sign of abatement.

French leader Francois Hollande, this week, invited Russia to join the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS).

But Russia is more keen to protecting its ally, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and to build a new military base to counter Nato hegemony in the region.

The clash of interests saw Turkey, on Monday, shoot down a Russian warplane, killing two pilots.

Theories on why Erdogan did it include: revenge for Russia’s killing of Turkey-backed rebels, the Syrian Turkmen; and revenge for Russia’s disruption of Turkish purchases of IS oil.

Erdogan’s gamble appears to have worked out.

Russia reacted with harsh words, economic sanctions, and more Syrian Turkmen killings, but no direct military retaliation.

But with Putin also known for reckless gambles and with a hardman image to protect, fear of escalation remains.

A European diplomat told EUobserver he was sitting next to a Russian colleague at an international meeting on Monday when news of the Turkey incident broke.

The Russian diplomat began crying, saying they had three sons of military age and several grandchildren. “Where’s all this going to end?” the Russian diplomat said.

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