As recent figures provided by the Turkish Coast Guard in late June show there have been no refugee deaths in the past 100 days - a significant update compared in number to the hundreds of refugees who drowned en route to Europe over the past two years - European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn recently claimed that Turkey needs the refugee deal made with the EU, even if visa liberalization is not finalized. Commenting on the Turkey-EU deal in an interview with German daily Handelsblatt, the EU official said, "The EU isn't as dependent on Turkey as many believe," in a statement that puzzled many.
Hahn's statement contradicts previous remarks he made to Daily Sabah back in early March when he stressed that "Once again, it is important to stress that Turkey is a key strategic partner for Europe, and vice versa; Europe is a very important, key strategic partner for Turkey. [Turkey] is our most reliable neighbor; therefore, cooperation is extremely important. It is not only about refugees but also about economic cooperation that is why the upgrading of customs is one of the elements," adding that he is "optimistic that the EU and Turkey can achieve their goals regarding the refugee crisis."
In March, Turkey signed an agreement with the EU that stipulates the readmission of migrants from Europe who crossed onto the continent after March 20, in exchange for the resettlement of Syrian migrants from camps in southern Turkey to European countries. The agreement also promises the acceleration of Turkey's EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen zone. However, with the recent July 15 failed coup attempt and the state of emergency declared in Turkey, the EU continues to insist that Turkey fulfill the 72 requirements for visa liberalization, remaining persistent with its demands that Turkey change its counterterrorism law.
In this respect, Commissioner Hahn told the German daily that "the refugee deal should be viewed as separate from visa liberalization," indicating that "Turkey has less leverage over Europe now that the migration route that ran from Turkey into Greece and the Balkans has been closed." However, facing the biggest influx of refugees fleeing both conflict and poverty since World War II, the EU has turned to Turkey for help in the Syrian crisis and since Turkey heeded the EU's call to slow the influx of refugees in Europe, the number of migrants heading to Europe has declined, with most migrants reaching Europe via safer routes on land.