Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

EU-Turkey readmission deal in doubt

  • The EU-Turkey visa-free deal, and the migrant swap deal that hangs upon it, face uncertain future (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Authorities in Turkey have yet to ratify a key component in the migrant swap deal with the EU despite the European Commission saying otherwise.

People who are not Turks but who reside in the EU without proper papers and who entered EU territory from Turkey can now be sent back to Turkey under the terms of a bilateral readmission agreement for third country nationals.

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Greece has a separate bilateral national pact with Ankara that allows Greek authorities to send all irregular migrants packing.

The EU Turkey readmission agreement, for its part, is part of a bigger package to let Turkish nationals enter the EU’s Schengen travel zone without a visa.

The EU readmission for third country nationals was supposed to have entered into full force on 1 June. But a government spokesperson from Turkey told this website on Monday (6 June) that the law has yet to be ratified.

"The internal ratification procedures in order for the readmission agreement to enter into force for third country nationals has not been finalised yet," said the spokesperson in an email.

He said a decision is still needed from Turkey's council of ministers. Once approved, it then needs to published in Turkey's official gazette.

"Our prime minister will explain the details of the procedures in the coming days," he said when asked when the law will be published.

The EU commission says it has been published already.

A commission spokesperson told reporters in Brussels that the third country national law was published on 20 May after it was signed by Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"So, procedurally all conditions for an advanced full entry into force of the readmission agreement is in place, including to third country nationals," the EU spokesperson said.

For some Turkish media, the delay is more than bureaucratic.

One Turkish daily over the weekend said, citing unnamed sources in the Turkish foreign ministry, that the readmission lag was being used as leverage by Ankara in its EU visa talks.

One of the EU’s 72 visa-free demands is that Turkey amends its sweeping anti-terrorism laws, which have been used by Erdogan to silence journalists and other critics.

Erdogan has refused to do it on grounds that he is in the middle of a war against Kurdish separatists and Islamic State jihadists.

He has also threatened to stop taking back migrants from Greece unless the EU takes the visa-free step by October.

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France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

NGO Mediterranean rescue standoff exposes EU rift

Conditions on the Dutch flagged Sea-Watch 3, an NGO boat with 32 rescued migrants onboard, continue to deteriorate - as EU states refuse to take them in. The youngest on board is a one-year old infant.

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