Saturday

16th Nov 2019

Interview

Refugees and Turkey accession 'are separate issues'

  • European Commission has backed the controversial deal, but MEPs and NGOs have heaped criticism on the pact (Photo: European Parliament)

Turkey’s EU accession process should be dealt with separately from the refugee crisis, the rapporteur for Turkey in the European Parliament has said.

“The EU Council’s dialogue with Turkey should not be one-dimensional, it is a short-term vision,” MEP Kati Piri for the Dutch Labour party told this website in a recent interview.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu (second from left) will be in Brussels again this week to agree details of the accord (Photo: The European Union)

“In the EP [European Parliament] we see Turkey increasingly moving away from the standards of an accession country, and all the groups agree that the accession cannot become a tit-for-tat in the refugee crisis,” she said.

Piri said the Turkish government needed to show through its actions that it intended to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria for joining the EU but that, for the time being, “they are moving in the opposite direction”.

Set out in 1992 at an EU summit in the Danish capital, the enlargement criteria say that any EU candidate has to have democratic institutions, to observe the rule of law and to respect minorities, among other provisions.

Piri said that tens of thousands of Kurdish people have been forced to flee fighting in south-east Turkey and that there has been a “major crackdown” on press freedom.

“Let’s broaden the dialogue, because we are not addressing these issues,” Piri said.

“My message to the EU leaders is stick to your own values. We are not taking our own principles seriously enough.”

Turkey's 'safe' status

She said that the EU and Turkey needed to cooperate to find a solution to the refugee crisis.

She also said the deal with Turkey should not threaten a peace settlement in Cyprus, which could pave the way for more negotiating chapters to be opened for Turkey.

But Piri said she was sceptical about the outcome of the EU summit, starting on Thursday (18 March), which is aimed at hammering out the details of an earlier EU-Turkey agreement.

Under the draft deal, Turkey would take back all irregular migrants, including Syrians, from Greece, while the EU would in return resettle others directly from Turkey on a one-for-one basis.

In order to do that, Turkey must be declared a “safe third country” - a country where minimum human rights and asylum standards are respected.

“The crazy one-for-one principle is legally and morally questionable,” Piri said, echoing the concerns of human rights groups over the deal.

Piri said that the statement from the last EU summit with Turkey, on 7 March, in effect confirms that Turkey is “safe” despite outstanding issues.

The Dutch MEP said Turkey should fulfil at least the minimum criteria in order to merit the status. She said it must have a proper asylum procedure in place not only for Syrians, but also for Iraqi and Afghani refugees, whose number is on the rise.

“I’m much more worried about them,” she said.

“We shouldn’t declare Turkey a safe third country.”

Ceasefire call

Piri said she was pessimistic about the chances of a deal that all 28 countries can agree to.

For the Dutch politician, only a large-scale resettlement scheme would really deter people from taking the illegal route to the EU.

She said she could foresee a scenario where the countries that have already been willing to take people in - such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden - would resettle the refugees while other EU states help to pay for the programme.

But she said there are also major differences on the acord among EP political groups in Brussels.

Lawmakers in the foreign affairs committee passed a resolution on Tuesday (16 March) that says tackling the migration crisis should not be linked to EU accession negotiations with Turkey.

"Outsourcing the refugee crisis to Turkey is not a credible long-term solution to the problem," they said. They added that EU-Turkey cooperation on migration “should not be linked to the calendar, content and conditionality of the negotiation process".

MEPs also urged Turkey to stop intimidation of journalists and to respect the EU’s fundamental values.

They called for an immediate ceasefire in south-east Turkey and for the resumption of the peace process with Kurdish rebels.

The resolution will be voted on in plenary in April.

EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors

A two-year scheme to send asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU states fell short of its potential, say EU auditors. Some 35,000 were helped - but auditors say 445,000 in Greece alone could have also potentially benefited.

Erdogan: refugees will enter Europe unless EU does more

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara will "open the doors" for refugees and migrants to enter Europe unless it does more to help. The EU says it won't help Turkey create a so-called "safe zone" in north-east Syria.

Greek migrant hotspot now EU's 'worst rights issue'

The 14,000 migrants trapped on the Greek island of Lesbos has been described as "the single most worrying fundamental rights issue that we are confronting anywhere in the European Union" by the head of the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us