Brussels fears collapse of Turkey-EU deal, but won't move a finger to keep it alive
- MEHMET SOLMAZ, BRUSSELS
- Jul 03, 2018
A collapse of the migration deal signed between the European Union and Turkey is "the last thing Europe would want to see right now," an EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity recently, told Daily Sabah.
They added that the bloc was already having a difficult time over much lower migrant influxes via its Mediterranean member states.
Meanwhile, European Commission's spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the agreement "needs to be fully implemented in non-discriminatory manners."
His statement came in reply to Daily Sabah's question on whether the bloc had plans to fulfill any of the benchmarks mentioned in the EU-Turkey agreement, which Turkey would benefit from.
In a press briefing, Schinas was asked, "It has been over two years since the agreement was signed. Looking back at the agreement, we see that visa liberalization is on hold, the customs union has not been upgraded and it is on stand still as mentioned in last week's General Affairs Council. The other point was re-energizing the accession negotiations. Looking at the overall picture, the only benefit from this agreement is for the EU. Migration is also down by 96 percent and the pledged six billion euros to Turkey is surely not going into the Turkish government's pocket but it is being spent on Syrian refugees. Is the EU going to do something to keep this deal alive? There are rumors in Ankara that the deal will collapse." Schinas responded by saying that the European Commission "values Turkish cooperation in managing the migration flows within the remit of our agreement in March 2016, which is a dynamic process in which we're always in cooperation with our Turkish partners work to find solutions on the issues identified in this text."
After reminding that Ankara was frustrated over the frozen visa liberalization processes, opening of new accession chapters or upgrading the customs union and the fact that Europe is not receiving tens of thousands of migrants anymore, Schinas was asked whether if Turkey was going to get any of these benchmarks mentioned in the agreement. In response, the European Commission spokesman declined a different reply and repeated that the implementation of the agreement was a "dynamic process" which the EU continues to work on.
Unlike the EU officials or many members of the bloc, who were preoccupied with Italy hijacking last week's EU Summit for several thousands of migrants it received, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov took a different approach and said Europe is not facing refugee influxes like it did in the previous years due to the Turkey-EU agreement. He said the issue of migration is not "really about migration and in fact, it is an only political issue" that the bloc has to solve.
His words came after Italy brought a deadlock to the summit Thursday evening by not signing any part of the EU Summit conclusion after Rome failed to get what it demanded from the bloc. After hours of long discussion, the EU leaders reached a deal with Italy and announced series of action to be taken to ease Italy's "burden."
While EU Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker briefly touched upon how effective the deal signed with Turkey was, the EU leaders refrained from commenting on the other points that the EU Agreement looked to solve, including visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and upgrading the rusty customs union.
Ankara's frustration has been growing as the bloc enjoys the fruits of the deal with Turkey and at the same time targets Ankara on its internal matters. When answering a question on how the EU is going to tackle new flows of migration in the Mediterranean, which is incomparable to what Turkey prevented, the Bulgarian premier said the deal with Turkey is "working 100 percent" and reminded the meeting he had with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Juncker and Tusk in Varna.
Commenting on anti-Turkey rhetoric reaching its peak in Europe with certain countries openly targeting Turkey's leadership, Borisov said the meeting took place in an atmosphere when many Europeans did not want to hold talks with Ankara.
Turkey and the EU signed an agreement on March 18, 2016, to stem the influx of refugees to Europe. Turkey has been the main route for refugees trying to cross into Europe since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. With the agreement, irregular arrivals decreased by 99 percent, saving the lives of many of those who would have attempted a treacherous journey by sea.The EU gave Turkey a list of 72 criteria to fulfill for visa-free travel for Turkish nationals after the two sides signed an agreement in March 2016. The 28 EU member states and European Parliament must approve the visa scheme. The EU has said that Turkey has completed 65 of the listed criteria, but needs to change its terrorism laws and make the necessary regulations concerning the independence of Turkey's Data Protection Board.