Maybe not perfect but…
EU-Turkey deal on migrants: not perfect but most realistic tool to tackle crisis
13-04-2016 – The agreement to return migrants and asylum seekers from the Greek islands to Turkey, reached at the meeting of heads of state or government on 18 March in Brussels, was at the centre of a debate with Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday morning.
A broad majority of MEPs voiced concern over the migration agreement between the EU and Turkey and called on the Commission and Council to closely monitor the situation of human rights and freedom of speech in Turkey, as well as allegations that Syrian refugees are being pushed back to Syria by the Turkish authorities. They also questioned whether Turkey can be considered a “safe country” for refugees.
Many MEPs questioned whether the deal would work, arguing that people smugglers would simply find new routes. Some expressed concern over the lack of staff to deal with the influx of people in Greece as well as the conditions on the ground for asylum seekers. But others stressed that even though the deal is not perfect, it is the most realistic tool available to tackle the current situation.
MEPs also outlined their priorities for the upcoming reform of the “Dublin” system, which is used to determine which country is responsible for processing asylum applications. They stressed that member states must take responsibility for implementing the relocation and resettlement programmes and reiterated the need to ensure safe and legal ways to Europe. [Source]
Report by President Donald Tusk to the European Parliament on the March European Council meeting
On 19 January, I said here in the European Parliament, that the EU had no more than two months to save the Schengen zone. And that the March European Council would be the last moment to see if our strategy worked. If it didn’t, we would face grave consequences such as the collapse of Schengen. We have used these two months as best we could. In this time I called two summits, dedicated almost exclusively to this issue.
On 7 March, the European Council took three important decisions. The first one concerned the ending of the ‘wave-through approach’, which meant bringing the flow of irregular migrants along the Western Balkans route to a close. This decision was based on the assumption that a European solution without respect for European law, and above all, without respect for the Schengen borders code, is not possible.
The second decision was on a massive increase of humanitarian aid to Greece. We set up a new emergency instrument to allow €300 million sent already this year, in the first place to Greece, but also to other Member States overwhelmed by the refugee crisis. We also offered further assistance in order to manage the external border in Greece, including those with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania. Not to mention other forms of support from Member States.
The third decision concerned sending back migrants from Greece to Turkey, those migrants who are not in need of international protection. Leaders also welcomed the presence of NATO in the Aegean to enhance intelligence and surveillance activities, while Turkey agreed to take back all irregular migrants apprehended in Turkish waters.
At our first meeting in March, I was also asked by leaders to take forward new proposals made by Turkey and work out a common European position with a view to reaching an agreement later that month.
That agreement was finally reached at the European Council on 18 March. We agreed that all irregular migrants coming from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March, would be returned to Turkey. The implementation would be phased-in gradually and based on the so-called one-for-one principle. This is what has begun to happen.
For me, the two key elements of the agreement were:
First, to guarantee compliance with all EU and international laws by ensuring that each and every migrant arriving in Europe would be treated individually. This included the respect for the principle of non-refoulement and excluded any kind of collective expulsions. The Commission gave a positive assessment of the legality of the agreement and I want to express my thanks to Jean-Claude and his team for their work and contribution.
Second, as regards accession talks, we took on board Cypriot concerns. The approach to this issue was, to my mind, a test of Europe’s solidarity towards one of its Member States. And Europe passed this test. On the one hand, some were tempted to force Cyprus to make huge concessions. It is quite understandable. But I maintained from the start that we could not sacrifice the most fundamental interests of a Member State, in this case Cyprus, on the altar of a migration deal with Turkey.
We are aware of all the tasks and difficulties in resolving this crisis. From the beginning, I have thought it is a dangerous illusion to believe that there exists an ideal and one-hundred-percent effective solution. I want to say to all the seekers of the political Holy Grail: you will never find it. Convenient and easy solutions are hard to find in politics, and in this case, they are virtually impossible. What we are faced with is a perpetual, tenuous and multi-dimensional effort. In fact, something like a never-ending story.
The solutions we are putting into practice are not ideal and will not end our work. Also, the deal with Turkey is not perfect and we are fully aware of its risks and weaknesses. We did everything we could to ensure that the agreement respects human dignity but I am conscious of the fact that everything depends on how it will be implemented. The deal with Turkey and closing the Western Balkans route raise doubts of an ethical nature, and also legal, as in the case of Turkey. I share some of these doubts, too. They can only be dispelled by putting the solutions, as they were agreed in every detail, into practice.
While taking into account all the above-mentioned doubts, and even sharing some of them, I would like to recall that the main goal we decided on was to stem irregular migration to Europe. As I have frequently said, without this, and without restoring control over European migration policy, we would be unable to prevent political catastrophes. Here I mean the collapse of Schengen; loss of control over our external borders with all its implications for our security; political chaos in the EU, a widespread feeling of insecurity; and ultimately, the triumph of populism and extremism. Today, everyone has finally understood how high the stakes were, and how high they still continue to be.
We need to realise that external circumstances will not work to our advantage. We have heard so many times that the only way to stem irregular migration is by solving the root causes of this crisis, namely by stabilising the world around us. I want to state very clearly that this had too often sounded like an alibi not to do anything at all, here in Europe. I hope we will finally understand that Europe doesn’t hold golden keys in its hands to help solve all the problems of this world. Let me say more, we were so preoccupied with looking for the key to save the world, that for a time we lost the key to solve our own problems. This crisis has eventually shown, that we must regain our feeling of responsibility for ourselves, before we turn to repairing the world around us. In the two months when we concentrated on what we should do in our own backyard, we managed to achieve results.
And those results were possible even though we have not resolved the root causes of migration. Like hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, war in Syria, destabilisation in all region from Libya to Afghanistan. Not only haven’t we solved all those crises, but new ones have appeared, such as tensions between Turkey and Russia, fighting in Nagorno Karabakh and dozens of terrorist attacks across many regions. It is humanly not possible to resolve all of them in a short-term perspective.
Obviously, no-one has a right to ignore the root causes of migration, as it is a challenge not only for Europe, but also for the whole global community. Therefore, we will work hard on our plan to address the migration crisis which we are going to present at the G7 Summit in Japan and G20 Summit in China. Our aim should be to increase the socio-economic development of the affected regions, notably education, health care, labour conditions, infrastructure and trade.
Let us not forget, however, that dealing with the root causes will be a constant and long-term effort. What is even worse, we must work with no guarantee of complete success, because it does not depend on our actions only. That is why we must be effective first and foremost where almost everything depends on us, namely managing the crisis on European soil.
Acting in this spirit, we must remember that the Balkan route is not the only one. And that other countries will also expect our cooperation and solidarity, not only Greece and Bulgaria. I have in mind here the Central Mediterranean route. The numbers of would-be migrants in Libya are alarming. This means that we must be prepared to help and show solidarity to Malta and Italy, should they request it. It will not be possible to simply copy the solutions we have applied in the Balkans, not least because Libya is not Turkey. As regards the Balkan route, we undertook action much too late, which resulted among others in the temporary closure of the borders inside Schengen. This is why our full cooperation with Italy and Malta today, is a condition to avoid this scenario in the future.
For far too long Europe was divided into advocates of security and advocates of openness. Today, we are finally building a synthesis of those two great needs: the need of security at our borders and the need for openness and tolerance. This is perhaps the biggest success of recent months. This synthesis will be one of the main battlefields of the future Europe, and it demands further actions. Let us not be afraid of this tension. In the critical moments of its history, Europe was victorious only when it coped with those two challenges simultaneously. To be true Europeans, we need to remain open and tolerant, yet at the same time tough and effective. Tensions are something natural. And the European phenomenon was the ability to transform these into positive energy. And this phenomenon needs to be preserved.
Speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Parliament Plenary Session – Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 17 and 18 March 2016 and outcome of the EU-Turkey Summit
Strasbourg, 13 April 2016 – Une violence fanatique, aveugle – c’est ce que des milliers de réfugiés connaissent au quotidien, en Syrie ou ailleurs, et qu’ils cherchent à fuir.
En tentant de rejoindre l’Europe, ils tombent très souvent aux mains de trafiquants, qui, avec une mise de départ modeste – de quoi investir dans des embarcations de fortune –, engendrent des chiffres d’affaires faramineux, de 3 à 6 milliards d’euros pour la seule année 2015.
C’est cet abject trafic d’êtres humains que nous souhaitons remplacer par des déplacements de demandeurs d’asile contrôlés et légaux. C’est l’intention de l’accord conclu le 18 mars entre l’Union européenne et la Turquie, et que nous avons commencé à mettre en œuvre.
Soit vous acceptez que la loi en mer Egée est faite par des trafiquants et par des criminels, soit vous acceptez le bien-fondé de la démarche de l’accord qui caractérise les relations en matière de réfugiés entre l’Union européenne et la Turquie.
Bien sûr, ce n’est pas facile. Je l’ai dit depuis le début : ce sera une tâche herculéenne, et elle l’est. Sa mise en œuvre pratique est de la responsabilité des autorités grecques et des autorités turques. Mais sa réussite est de notre responsabilité à tous.
La Commission est sur place avec son coordinateur, Monsieur Maarten Verwey, qui travaille en étroite coopération avec les agences européennes, les autorités grecques et turques pour les aider dans la mise en œuvre pratique de cet accord en veillant au grain, c’est-à-dire au plein respect du droit européen et du droit international.
A ce jour, depuis le 4 avril, date de la mise en application de l’accord, 325 migrants irréguliers ont été retournés de Grèce en Turquie et 79 réfugiés Syriens ont été réinstallés de Turquie vers l’Europe.
Ce n’est qu’un début. Et chacun – non seulement la Grèce et la Turquie mais aussi tous les Etats membres – doit se montrer à la hauteur des engagements pris pour mener à bien ce processus de retours et de réinstallations.
Unsere Verantwortung für die Flüchtlinge, Herr Präsident, hört natürlich nicht an der Außengrenze auf. Ausgangspunkt des Aktionsplans mit der Türkei ist ja, dass wir zusammen stehen, um den Menschen auf der Flucht ein menschenwürdiges Leben zu bieten und eine Zukunftsperspektive. Deshalb ist auch die 3-Milliarden-Fazilität so wichtig und das ist richtig und wichtig, dass wir sie bis Ende 2018 noch einmal um 3 weitere Milliarden Euro aufstocken. Schließlich fließt das Geld ja nicht an die Türkei – wie ich wahrheitswidrig oft lesen muss – sondern das Geld kommt den Flüchtlingen zu Gute, die Zuflucht vor Regen und Kälte suchen, die Essen benötigen und deren Kinder zur Schule gehen müssen, weil diese Kinder ein Recht auf Zukunft haben. Genau deshalb sind wir dabei die ersten Projekte im Rahmen der 3-Milliarden-Euro-Fazilität freizugeben:
– So wenden wir EUR 55 Millionen auf, damit zusätzlich 110,000 Kinder Zugang zur Schule erhalten.
– Dazu kommen weitere EUR 40 Millionen für humanitäre Hilfe durch das Welternährungsprogramm. Damit können 735,000 syrische Flüchtlinge mit Nahrung versorgt werden.
– Weitere Projekte sind in Vorbereitung und sind unterwegs.
Ich werde oft gefragt, wahrscheinlich auch hier, ob die Türkei überhaupt ein verlässlicher Partner sei. Natürlich – und das will ich überhaupt nicht verschweigen – gibt es Themen, mehr als nur eines, bei denen die Türkei und die Europäische Union höchst unterschiedlicher Auffassung und Meinung sind. Eines ist für mich aber ganz klar: so sehr wir die Zusammenarbeit für die Flüchtlinge schätzen, so unverändert ist unsere Haltung in anderen Fragen, wenn es etwa um Grundwerte wie der Pressefreiheit geht. Ich kann es überhaupt nicht nachvollziehen, dass ein deutscher Botschafter wegen eines zugegebenermaßen unmöglichen satirischen Liedes einbestellt wird. Das bringt die Türkei nicht näher an uns heran, sondern entfernt uns voneinander.
Die Partnerschaft mit der Türkei öffnet aber auch diesbezüglich manche Möglichkeiten. Denn im Dialog lassen sich die Grundfragen, die uns am Herzen liegen, und der Türkei hoffentlich auch, besser ansprechen als aus frostiger Distanz. Und wenn sich die Türkei in den Beitrittsverhandlungen auf uns zubewegt, dann kann ich das nur begrüßen. Ich möchte das eines Tages auch begrüßen können.
Von allen Lösungen, die wir haben, ist die Zusammenarbeit mit der Türkei also die beste – alleine schon, weil eine Grenze immer zwei Seiten hat und sie immer besser mit als gegen einen Nachbarn zu schützen ist. Und wir müssen uns auch einer weiteren Tatsache bewusst sein: Die Türkei allein nimmt fast 3 Millionen Flüchtlinge auf – mehr als jedes andere Land in der Welt und mehr als wir Europäer zusammen – und es ist deshalb unsere Verantwortung, unsere türkischen Nachbarn mit dieser Verantwortung nicht alleine zu lassen. Dies ist eine Frage der Solidarität. Wenn wir untereinander schon nur zur bedingten Solidarität fähig sind, dann sollten wir denen gegenüber, die die Hauptlast tragen, zu unbedingter Solidarität fähig sein.
Solidarity, Mister President, is our guiding light as we prepare to reform our Common European Asylum System.
We know the weak points in our current system – and the smugglers know them too. They have exploited a patchwork of national rules to make a fortune from human suffering.
Last week, the Commission published the options for reform.
I believe we need to do three things above all.
First, we need to make clear which Member State is responsible for treating an asylum request. This is the foundation of our common asylum system – it must be clear, it must be feasible, it must be sustainable even in times of crisis.
Second, we need to ensure that every man, woman and child receives humane and equal treatment wherever they are – and this requires that we fully harmonise our asylum procedures.
And third, we need to ensure that every asylum seeker remains in the country where he or she has been assigned to. This is the only way to maintain order. It is the only way to ensure that refugees can enjoy their rights while respecting their obligations.
One principle above all will shape our reform: solidarity, once again. We cannot abandon any Member State so that it faces a crisis alone. A country’s place on the map should not decide its share of the work.
I want our asylum system to be the best in the world. And I want this House to help us build it. You have an opportunity to provide guidance before we publish our proposal next month. I urge you today: share your ideas with us.
Ich bin sehr zufrieden darüber, dass der Europäische Rat vom 18. März die Kommissionsstrategie für Wachstum und Beschäftigung gut geheißen hat, dieses tugendhafte Dreieck zwischen Investitionen, Strukturreformen und Gesunden der öffentlichen Finanzen.
Diese Strategie wenden wir an und diese Strategie bringt erste Ergebnisse. Die globale wirtschaftliche Lage der Europäischen Union bleibt fragil; das Wachstum bleibt ungenügend. Und wir haben immer noch 22 Millionen arbeitslose Europäer, und solange wir 22 Millionen Menschen ohne Arbeit haben, solange kann man das Ende der Krise nicht dekretieren.
Einen Tag vor dem Europäischen Rat hat die Kommission ihre Strategie in Sachen Stahlindustrie festgelegt. Ich möchte nachdrücklich dafür plädieren, dass wir die Probleme der europäischen Stahlindustrie ernst nehmen. Stahlindustrie ist nicht irgendeine Industrie – Stahlindustrie hat aufgehört eine Schwerindustrie zu sein. Stahlindustrie ist der Ort zukunftsorientierter Spitzentechnologien. Und die Stahlarbeiter sind keine Eisenträger, sondern hochqualifizierte Fachkräfte. Und diese Fachkräfte in Europa verdienen unsere uneingeschränkte Unterstützung.
Deshalb müssen wir mit aller Energie gegen unfaire Handelspraktiken vorgehen. Deshalb müssen wir uns mit den Ursachen der globalen weltweiten Stahlüberproduktion beschäftigen. Deshalb müssen wir in Zukunftstechnologien investieren und deshalb müssen wir in die Menschen investieren, die in der Stahlindustrie arbeiten. Es gibt in Europa 360,000 Stahlarbeiter; aber der indirekte Stahlbereich ist um ein Vielfaches größer. Diese Arbeitsplätze müssen in Europa erhalten bleiben. Das ist unsere vordringliche Aufgabe in der Industriepolitik.
Mister President, free trade should be fair trade. We are now investigating steel products from China to determine whether they were dumped on the market. And we will take other measures if necessary.
The European Council agreed to the measures the Commission has taken in relation with agriculture. This is an important dimension of our common undertaking.
And last week the Commission published a VAT Action Plan, giving our Member States more flexibility to set VAT rates in line with their priorities.
In a time of upheaval, the Commission continues to defend the European interest, driving forward solutions and building bridges. This is our job – to provide stability – and this is how we plan to continue.
EPP Group Chairman warns Erdogan that EU values are non-negotiable
Strasbourg, 13.04.2016 – “With this last European Council, we are bringing order to the migration crisis. And what we did in the Balkans regarding the management of the migration flows should also be considered for the Mediterranean. We now have to focus on this region”, said Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, during the debate on the outcome of the EU-Turkey Summit. The Chairman explicitly thanked Council President Donald Tusk for his important contribution in managing the refugee crisis by bridging the gaps of the Member States’ different opinions.
“The conclusion is that we have to tackle the problem together with Turkey. Europe needs safe borders but it mustn’t become a fortress. The way-through process has stopped in the Balkans. And we can also offer assistance to the refugees. Furthermore, we have new impetus in our relationship with Turkey and we can work together in a climate of confidence”, stressed Weber. “In this context, I appeal to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to respect the freedom of the press and the right of minority in his country and this respect should apply to artistic freedom in Europe as well. These are central values of the European Union and are non-negotiable.”
Commenting on the second item of the last Council, the growth issue, Manfred Weber underlined the positive example of Cyprus which no longer needs rescue packages thanks to stable budgets and the implementation of reforms. “We can’t promise people that we can spend money that we don’t have, like Left-wing parties do”, said Weber referring to the discussions on Southern Europe. “Reforms and stable budgets are the only ways to achieve growth.” [Source]
Kati Piri: “We need a stable and more democratic Turkey”
Turkey might be an important partner for tackling the migration crisis, however concerns over issues such as the media freedom and the rule of law have raised doubts about how much progress the country has made towards EU membership. MEPs debate the situation in Turkey last year on Wednesday 13 April. You can follow the discussion live on our website. We talked to Kati Piri, a Dutch member of the S&D group who is responsible for steering the 2015 progress report through Parliament.
Is Turkey heading in the right direction towards EU membership? Is media freedom at risk in the country?
In general one can say that Turkey is moving further away from meeting the European standards. When it comes to media freedom, the rule of law and the situation in the south east with the Kurdish minority, we have big concerns about certain internal developments.
Does the need for cooperation on migration risk coming at the expense of human rights?
That’s the risk of course and this Parliament has been very clear that this should not happen. We have criticised the European Commission for having postponed a couple of months ago their critical report just ahead of Turkish elections, which we think was a bad signal to give.
The Parliament is also united in saying that the cooperation on migration should not be linked to accession. Accession criteria are criteria that have to be met. This is not a negotiable tit for tat, which can be done in return for cooperation on migration. This is not the way a credible enlargement process should be conducted.
EU countries are keen to find an effective solution to tackle the migration crisis with the help of Turkey. How do we avoid rushing through agreements such as visa free travel as a result?
In order to have a credible partner in Turkey, we need a stable Turkey and a more democratic Turkey. And we cannot just say, we now have the migration crisis so we don’t discuss all the other issues. This is the signal the European Parliament wants to send with this report. With Turkey as a candidate country, we will also have to look at the internal developments and openly discuss it with the government.
I think we should look at visa facilitation for Turkey, just as we did with many other countries, but only when the criteria have been met.
We work with clear criteria on issues such the quality of passports and border controls. Over the last two years Turkey has done quite a lot but one third of the 72 requirements still need to be done. I don’t think it’s realistic to say Turkey will manage to pass all this legislation in a month’s time if it hasn’t done so in the last two years.
But as soon as the legislation is in place and the criteria have been met, I see no obstacles to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens. [Source]
“Wake up, EU-Turkey deal will not save us”
During today’s debate in the European Parliament about the EU-Turkey deal, ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt has urged the European leaders to face reality. The EU-Turkey deal will not save us. Desperate refugees are taking alternative, more dangerous routes. Yesterday alone, more than 2000 refugees had to be rescued in the Mediterrean Sea.
13/04/2016 – “People say this deal works because the influx has diminished. Yes, the numbers coming from Turkey to Greece have gone from 1700 a day to 50. But in the meantime, 2152 people tried to reach the Italian coast. We are pushing refugees to take alternative, more dangerous routes.”
Verhofstadt referred to new recent reports by the Dutch national television and NGOs on massive push backs of Syrian refugees: “What does “temporary protection“ mean when multiple reports confirm that Turkey is pushing refugees back into Syria? It is shameful and goes against international law. We must live up to our responsibilities, as outlined in our treaties.”
The only way out is to take our own responsibility and to implement a European Coast and Border Guard, a new European Asylum System and a European Blue Card to make legal migration possible. However, EU Member States do not honour their own commitments.
Verhofstadt: “The biggest obstacle we face is that EU Member States still refuse to send the necessary number of people to make the management of our external borders work. Look at the numbers necessary for the management of the difficult Greek border: the Commission has asked for 400 interpreters, only 37 have been sent. 472 Immigration officers are required, 31 have been sent. And only 339 of the 1500 security officers requested have been made available by Member States.”
“With this lack of commitment, we will remain in the hands of Erdogan, who is using vulnerable refugees as bargaining chips to get more concessions and decide about our way of life, as he is already doing now by instructing the German government to prosecute a German TV presenter.” [Source]
GUE/NGL ABSTENTİON LARGELY DUE TO LACK OF CRİTİCİSM OF RECENT EU-TURKEY DEAL ON REFUGEES
Despite the positive points in the Metsola, Kyenge report on ‘the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration’, voted in Parliament today, the lack of criticism concerning the recent EU-Turkey agreement was among the reasons why many members of the group were unable to back the report and abstained.
Italian MEP Barbara Spinelli, the group’s shadow on the report, explains: “The report raises a number of positive points with regards to search and rescue, safe and legal access, the temporary protection directive and mutual recognition of asylum decisions.”
“There are however a number of negative points that our group cannot support such as paragraphs in favour of readmission agreements, returns, the safe country of origin and the European Coast Guards proposals and the fact that the report does not acknowledge the role played by the EU external interventions in creating the crisis that war refugees are currently fleeing from.” MEP Spinelli continues: “The main reason I recommended our group to abstain was, however, the complete absence of criticism of the recent EU-Turkey deal: a deal deemed illegal even by the UN secretary general’s special representative for international migration and development for two fundamental reasons: it promotes collective deportations and considers Turkey as a safe third country.”
She concludes: “Our group had tabled three amendments, with a roll-call vote, condemning the agreement: they were voted down with the decisive vote of the S&D group. Other important amendments tabled by our group were rejected, hence the negative vote of many GUE/NGL MEPs.” [Source]
Videos: Statements during the debate on Turkey: