Sunday

17th Feb 2019

EU asking Turkey to take back migrants

  • Tusk (l) and Davutoglu in Ankara on Thursday (Photo: consillium.europa.eu)

In its effort to reduce the flow of migrants coming to Europe, the EU is now focusing on sending back economic migrants to Turkey.

"To many in Europe, the most promising method seems to be a fast and large-scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants arriving in Greece," European Council president Donald Tusk said on Thursday (3 March) in Ankara.

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

  • The Ankara visit completed a tour of several Balkan capitals by the EU Council chief (Photo: consillium.europa.eu)

"It would effectively break the busines model of the smugglers," he said.

At a joint press conference with Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Tusk said that despite a "good and growing cooperation" between the EU and Turkey, "the refugee flows remain far too high and further action is needed".

As Turkey doesn't seem to be able to decisively stop migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece, it is now being asked to take back those who don't qualify for asylum.

A first group of 308 migrants from Mahgreb, posing as Syrians, was already sent back from Greece on Wednesday on the basis of a Greek-Turkish readmission agreement.

Next Monday, at an EU-Turkey summit, "the minimum outcome" will be an agreement to "accelerate readmission of third country nationals and economic migrants," Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte also told the Reuters press agency the same day as Tusk’s Ankara visit.

A "preferred outcome" for Rutte would also be that EU and Turkish leaders agree that if in "a couple of weeks … the numbers coming from Turkey to Greece are really coming down with the zero being visible … a more ambitious resettlement" scheme could be started.

No specific numbers

After the EU-Turkey joint action plan was agreed in November, the goal set was to stop the flow by spring and then resettle refugees from Turkey to EU countries that volunteered to take them

The objective now is to "reduce as much as possible illegal influx of migrant to Europe," Tusk said in Ankara.

"We didn't agree on specific numbers," Tusk said after his discussion with Davutoglu.

"It's not about numbers. It’s about an ongoing and permanent process," Tusk said, adding that it was difficult for both sides to implement every detail of the action plan in just a few weeks.

"Turkey is here to fulfill its responsabilities," Davutoglu said at the press conference.

The Turkish PM spoke more about the "new phase" of the EU-Turkish relations, however.

The EU has promised Turkey to open more chapters in accession negotiations and to speed up its application for visa-free travel for Turkish nationals to the EU.

Turkish officials are concerned that France will block the visa-free deal, however. One source told EUobserver that if it did, then Turkey would cancel arrangements to take back migrants from the EU.

Greece 'not alone'

Before Ankara, Tusk was in Athens Thursday morning, where he met the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

He said that "Greece or any other European country will no longer be a transit country" for migrants and urged llegal economic migrants "wherever [they] are from", not to come to Europe.

"Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing," he said.

Tusk also assured Greece, where up to 70,000 refugees could be in need of humanitarian aid, of the EU's support.

"The European Union will not leave Greece alone," he said, noting that "Greece and the Greek people are paying a very high price for the problem they themselves did not create".

Tsipras, for his part, asked that "unilateral actions stop in Europe".

"Greece will demand that all countries respect the European treaty and that there will be sanctions for those that do not," he said.

His reference to unilateral actions comes after Austria, two weeks, all-but closed its border, prompting similar action by Serbia and Macedonia and creating a build-up of people in Greece.

EU unveils €700m refugee fund with Greece in mind

The EU commission plans to spend up €700 million on refugee aid in member states over the next three years. "This assistance, to a great extent, will go to Greece," a senior official said.

Russia 'weaponising' refugees against EU

Russia is “weaponising migration” as part of a broader campaign to extend its influence in Europe, Nato’s military chief has said, echoing German and Turkish concern.

UN criticises EU's anti-migrant rhetoric

A UN official criticised EU leaders for telling migrants not to come to Europe, even though 91 percent of them are fleeing wars and not just looking for work.

Press crackdown could sour EU-Turkey summit

An Istanbul court ordered the takeover of the management of opposition daily Zaman. The EU is urged to react, three days ahead of Monday's migration talks.

Opinion

Erdogan, prince of Europe, took my newspaper Zaman

After the forced takeover of Zaman, a daily critical of Turkey's president, its Brussels correspondent Selcuk Gultasli was told to stop writing. He asks the EU not to bargain with its values.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us