Saturday

29th Apr 2017

Turkey and EU hail successes of migrant deal

  • Juncker (l) and Davutoglu met in Strasbourg after delivering their speeches (Photo: Council of Europe)

The EU commission and Turkey have praised their controversial migrant deal for breaking the business model of the people smugglers and decreasing the number of migrants travelling to Europe.

EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu talked about the deal at the Council of Europe on Tuesday (19 April), a day before the EU’s executive was due to unveil its first assessment of the agreement.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“The plan is starting to work. Since the agreement took effect, we have seen a sharp decrease in the number crossing the Aegean from Turkey into Greece,” Juncker told the human rights watchdog.

“We are breaking the cruel business model of smugglers.”

In his speech, Davutoglu insisted that Turkey had “fulfilled all its commitments in the deal”.

“The number of crossings from Turkey to Greece has gone down to 60, and sometimes zero, people a day. This is a successful deal.”

However, he added that the €3 billion pledged by the EU to Turkey to help care for the 2.7 million refugees there is not yet in place.

The agreement on returning migrants to Turkey, signed in March, was criticised for allowing migrants to be detained, and failing to provide proper legal safeguards.

Juncker insisted the deal respected European and international norms, saying he was “not happy about all that criticism”.

EU border agency Frontex said on Monday that the agreement had led to a “noticeable” reduction in the number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in March.

The total number was 26,460 - half of February's figure.

Frontex also said in the first half of April, on average, there had been fewer than 100 daily arrivals of migrants on Greek islands.

Visa liberalisation

But Juncker said that Turkey should not expect special treatment on visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in Europe.

Davutoglu earlier warned that Turkey would no longer honour the accord, if the EU failed to ease visa requirements by June.

"As part of the agreement, we are working towards visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens. Turkey must fulfil all remaining conditions," Juncker said.

"Visa liberalisation is a matter of criteria. The criteria will not be watered down in the case of Turkey," he added.

Granting visa waiver to 75 million Turks is highly sensitive issue among EU states, with some fearing it would open the way for more Muslim migration to the bloc.

Europe needs Turkey

Davutoglu told the Council of Europe that “discrimination and intolerance is rising in European societies”.

“Muslims, migrants and Roma people unfortunately become the primary victims of discrimination,” he added, saying it was “strange that there is some maltreatment of Syrian refugees and migrants in Europe”.

Meanwhile, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters in Ankara on Tuesday that “the European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union”.

Erdogan denounced as “provocative” last week's European Parliament report that said Ankara was backsliding on democracy.

He lashed out at the report for not praising Turkey for hosting refugees from Syria and Iraq.

He said: "Three million people have been looked after in this country so they don't disturb the Europeans. Is there anything about this in the report?"

The Turkish president has threatened before to open the gates to migrants into Europe, if negotiations with the EU do not go his way.

EU-Turkey deal gets reality check

The EU-Turkey deal that came into force on Sunday has not deterred migrants crossing the Aegean sea on its first day. But it raises many questions as Greek and Turkish legal frameworks still need to be set up.

Greece struggles to launch EU-Turkey plan

Hundreds of migrants arrived on Greek islands over the weekend, as authorities scramble to implement a deal to send them swiftly back to Turkey.

EU stands aside as Hungary detains migrants

Commission is withholding action on Hungary's detention of asylum seekers, even as the Hungarian government tries to "stop Brussels" on immigration policy.

Austria wants out of EU migrant relocations

Austria is required to start relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece after an exemption to the scheme ended on 11 March. But Austria's chancellor has other ideas and wants the exemption prolonged.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  2. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  3. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual
  4. Rethinking Europe's relationship with Turkey
  5. Mob storms Macedonian parliament
  6. MEPs retain secrecy on office spending
  7. May accuses EU-27 of 'lining up against Britain'
  8. Resurrected Renzi to regain leadership of Italy's ruling party