segunda-feira, 7 de março de 2016
EU and Turkey postpone deal on refugees
EU and Turkey postpone deal on refugees
European leaders need more time to digest Ankara’s proposals on resettling refugees.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI AND BARBARA SURK 3/8/16, 12:44 AM CET Updated 3/8/16, 2:36 AM CET
EU leaders and Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu failed to reach a far-reaching agreement on the refugee crisis at their emergency summit on Monday, forcing them to reconvene in 10 days’ time when they hope to finalize a deal.
Ankara’s new demands on the eve of the EU-Turkish summit — for more money, visa waivers for Turks, a kick-start to EU accession talks, and a commitment to resettle refugees — took EU leaders by surprise, and angered many who had arrived in Brussels expressing optimism about a long-overdue show of solidarity.
But after months of failure to make progress on the migration issue, Europe’s political leaders could not afford to walk away from their 12 hours of talks without something to show for it. So they were left to declare they’d reached a tentative agreement on the “main principles” of several of the proposals — with details to be worked out ahead of another summit on March 17-18.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after the summit ended that the Turkey’s proposals are “a breakthrough if it can be implemented,” adding that a lot of work remained to be done to have the “fine details” ready by the next summit.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the agreement, which required further discussion, would be a “game-changer” that would “make clear that the only viable way to come to Europe is through legal channels.”
Davutoğlu said his country’s objective too was “to prevent human smugglers and to help people who want to come to Europe through legal ways and in a disciplined manner.”
However, European leaders balked at some of Turkey’s last-minute demands for helping Europe to cope with the flow of refugees, which included doubling Ankara’s demand for financial aid by asking for an extra €3 billion, speeding up visa waivers for Turks traveling to the EU and giving new momentum to stalled EU accession talks.
EU leaders were also said to have reacted negatively to comments early Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who complained in a televised speech that the EU had yet to deliver on its prior commitments — even though Brussels had just sent part of the money from the original €3 billion deal a few days earlier.
“It’s important for us to see this as a package,” Davutoğlu told a joint news conference with Juncker and Tusk. “This is a humanitarian process, helping refugees, but at the same time it is strategic issue for us as Turkey — that Turkey will be accepted into the EU and Turkish acceleration will create a new momentum.”
Long, difficult evening
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said he would veto a proposal under which Turkey would take refugees from the Greek islands in exchange for the EU automatically taking an equal number of asylum-seekers from Turkey and resettling them in the EU.
Under the final statement agreed by EU leaders, those measures will be discussed in the coming days, but it remains to be seen how many of them will agree to the Turkish wish list.
Merkel went into the summit objecting to a proposed declaration that the West Balkan route used by migrants to reach northern Europe was “closed.” Arguing that this did not reflect the situation on the ground, with refugees continuing to use the route, the chancellor demanded that the language be changed to “irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route have now come to an end.”
“In principle it’s closed. And in principle it’s also open. In reality very few migrants still use it,” remarked Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković.
However, leaders remained hopeful that the foundations had been laid for a lasting refugee deal with the Turks.
“If security at borders is guaranteed, if Turkey respects its duty in terms of readmission — it is a complete system which will allow us to come back to [the passport-free area] Schengen,” said French President François Hollande. “We finally have a coherent and finally a European action based on objectives and instruments that can be useful.”
Britain’s David Cameron said it had been a “long and difficult evening, but I think we do have the basis for a breakthrough.”
Cameron and other EU leaders took the opportunity to complain to Davutoğlu about the Turkish authorities’ takeover of a leading opposition newspaper, Zaman, last Friday.
The paper was taken over at the request of a prosecutor investigating one of Erdoğan’s main opponents, highlighting one of the main sticking points to Turkish accession to the EU — namely, the lack of respect for human rights and freedom of speech.
“Freedom of speech is our basic value, a value of Turkish democracy,” said Davutoğlu. “I am against any restriction regarding freedom of speech and freedom of the media.”
Maïa de la Baume, Hans von der Burchard, Matthew Karnitschnig and Craig Winneker contributed to this article.
Jacopo Barigazzi and Barbara Surk