terça-feira, 15 de março de 2016
EU-Turkey migration deal on life support
EU-Turkey migration deal on life support
Countries have attacked nearly every aspect of the agreement leaders hope to finalize at this week’s summit.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 3/14/16, 8:12 PM CET
Opposition intensified Monday to a proposed EU-Turkey deal to try to cut off the flow of migrants into Europe, as diplomats scrambled to balance Ankara’s demands with those of several key European governments.
EU leaders aim to ratify the agreement at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. The proposed deal requires Turkey to take back migrants who reach the EU illegally in exchange for a €6 billion payment plus promises to lift visa restrictions on Turks traveling to Europe and speed up talks on Turkey’s membership in the bloc.
But a series of events — including formal objections from at least five countries about the plan, the political fallout from German elections and a terrorist attack in Ankara — cast doubt on how the final agreement would come together. Diplomats said Monday that several changes to the deal were being discussed.
Since the outlines of the deal were first approved last week by EU leaders at a summit with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, the proposal has attracted a steady stream of harsh criticism from governments across the bloc. Leaders of those countries have spent the past week coming to grips with the plan, which was dropped on them by surprise by Davutoğlu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel just as their March 7 summit was getting underway.
A new draft of the proposal circulating Monday included few new details beyond what was agreed in principle by EU leaders last week. But Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, was already trying to allay national concerns about the plan as he mounted a last-ditch diplomatic effort to ensure a consensus behind it.
A talking-points paper prepared by Tusk’s office and obtained by POLITICO said the proposal to resettle one Syrian refugee for each refugee returned to Turkey was “temporary and extraordinary” and that migrants returned to Turkey would be “protected in accordance with international standards.”
But it also did not rule out new resettlements or relocations: “Should the number of returns exceed the numbers provided for by these commitments, this agreement will be subject to review,” says the paper. That language could anger Hungary, which said it will accept the deal with Turkey only if there are no more resettlements. The document does not mention visa liberalization, new money and new “chapters” of the EU membership process being opened, as there’s no agreement on these areas, diplomats said.
Still, diplomats said Monday they were optimistic that a deal will be approved this week and officials stressed the importance of taking decisive action as refugees continue to arrive in the EU by the thousands — overwhelming the ability of countries like Greece to deal with them.
But first they will have to address the concerns of several countries that have raised red flags, including: Cyprus, which opposes any deal to move forward on EU membership for Turkey until Ankara fully respects all the commitments made with Nicosia; Bulgaria, which wants the agreement to also focus on the migration route on its border with Turkey; and France and Spain, which have raised humanitarian concerns.
Spain was the most recent country to signal its opposition to Turkey’s demands. The country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, called the proposed agreement with Ankara “unacceptable” in remarks to reporters Monday.
“We interpret it as contrary to the international law, to the Geneva Convention and to the European treaties,” he said before a meeting of EU foreign ministers, echoing concerns made by other countries and by humanitarian groups about the plan to send migrants back from the EU to Turkey.
Aid groups and non-governmental organizations were also unrelenting in their criticism of the arrangement, saying it amounted to sending refugees back to a country like Turkey that doesn’t fully respect the Geneva Convention.
Further complicating the political scenario around the deal: the drubbing taken by Merkel’s party in German regional elections Sunday, a result seen as a referendum on the chancellor’s refugee policy. The outcome gave ammunition to critics of an EU migration policy that has largely been driven by Merkel.
“I expect we can make a deal with Turkey, but I have always said we can’t put ourselves at the mercy of Turkey,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on Monday.
EU officials continue to insist that a deal is possible and that the final agreement will be legally and ethically defensible. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said after the last summit that it is “legally feasible,” but acknowledged a few days later that both Greece and Turkey might have to make legislative changes in order to make it compliant with the Geneva Convention.
Juncker’s spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, continued to defend the deal Monday, telling reporters that “as far as the Commission is concerned this pre-agreement is a legal agreement.”
‘No European consensus’
Diplomats said this week that much depends on Greece, with questions still outstanding on whether it will be able to carry out key elements of the plan, such as case-by-case decisions on the status of refugees for Syrians to be sent back from Greece to Turkey.
“What is unclear here is whether Greece is the problem or the solution,” said one diplomat.
Other diplomats stressed that since the deal does not include a massive resettlement program from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where the majority of Syrian refugees are, it could have little impact in offering alternatives to smugglers — a supposed benefit that leaders offered as one of the main selling points of the deal with Turkey.
But the concerns raised in recent days by governments across the EU — though clearly aimed at domestic political audiences as much as at the deal itself — will be hard to ignore.
“There cannot be any concessions on the matter of human rights or the criteria for visa liberalization,” French President François Hollande said Saturday, referring to one of Ankara’s conditions for the deal.
Bulgaria’s objections came Friday in a letter to Tusk from Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who wrote that the agreement should also focus on the migration route on Turkey’s border with Bulgaria, as well as maritime borders between Turkey in the EU, including in the Black Sea.
Some of the Bulgarian requests have been incorporated in the draft document being prepared for the summit, said one diplomat familiar with preparations for the meeting later this week.
Despite the criticism from their EU counterparts and from opposition leaders at home, Turkish leaders remain bullish about the prospects for the visa liberalization deal.
Cyprus, an EU country still partly occupied by Turkish troops, is sticking by its opposition to opening new chapters in Ankara’s accession talks with Europe. “We will not lift our veto on those chapters,” Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told POLITICO on Friday.
Another Turkish proposal in the draft deal, to set up a safe zone in Syria for refugees, has little support from anyone and also seems in trouble, sources said Monday.
“There is no European consensus on a safe zone in Syria,” said a diplomat.
Despite the criticism from their EU counterparts and from opposition leaders at home, Turkish leaders remain bullish about the prospects for the visa liberalization deal. Davutoğlu last week called on opposition members in the Turkish parliament to pass the legislative reforms required by the EU by May 1 in order to meet the deal’s speeded-up timetable.
“We need the opposition’s support,” Davutoğlu said. “Let them not block parliament with an obstructive stance and let’s pass these laws. This is a 50-60-year-old dream. We will make it real for our citizens.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, tried to allay Western leaders’ humanitarian concerns by saying that unlike some EU governments, Turkey would not behave “hypocritically” by closing its borders when faced with a humanitarian catastrophe.
“We have to accept the people escaping bombs with an open-door policy from now on,” Erdoğan said on Saturday.
It all adds up to another difficult week of diplomacy for Tusk, who is charged with finalizing the deal before the summit on Thursday and Friday. The European Council president travels to Cyprus Tuesday to meet with the country’s president and was also expected to make a trip to Ankara before the summit.
“Nobody is saying the agreement would mean the end of the migration crisis but if properly implemented it is a step forward,” said another diplomat.
Hans von der Burchard and Alev Scott contributed to this article.