Thursday

28th Jan 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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. Putin holds out olive branch to Europe
  2. US snatched Russian anti-air system from Libya warlord
  3. UK to extradite alleged trafficker to EU despite Brexit
  4. EU puts trust in Boeing 737s after post-crash ban
  5. EU animal-export trade under harsh spotlight
  6. City of London wants to set rules for EU
  7. MEPs want 2030 targets to reduce consumption footprint
  8. Coronavirus cases worldwide pass 100m

EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex

MEPs are drumming up support for an inquiry into the EU's controversial border and coast guard agency, Frontex. So far, the Greens, the left-wing GUE, and Renew Europe are on board - amid expectations the centre-left S&D will also join.

Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees

The Greek government last week requested that the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex help return 1,450 failed asylum seekers to Turkey. Turkey has refused, citing the pandemic.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Poland imposes anti-abortion law amid EU concern
  2. The EU's vaccine strategy - the key points
  3. EU-AstraZeneca row flares up after vaccines shortfall
  4. First Covid, now McKinsey - how austerity hit EU healthcare
  5. Frontex suspends operations in Hungary
  6. Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office
  7. MEPs: Portugal 'risks undermining' trust in EU prosecutor
  8. EU to control vaccine exports in row over delays

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us