terça-feira, 8 de março de 2016
Europe finds no delight in Turkish deal
Europe finds no delight in Turkish deal
Planned deal with Turkey attacked from all sides.
By MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG 3/8/16, 9:42 PM CET Updated 3/8/16, 9:51 PM CET
Europe’s plan to grant Turkey more aid and closer ties in exchange for Ankara’s help in keeping refugees at bay faced intense criticism across the Continent Tuesday, foreshadowing a tough public fight in the days ahead as officials rush to secure a deal.
German and EU leaders have portrayed the proposed arrangement as a major breakthrough; Europe’s best, possibly last, hope to bring the refugee crisis under control.
But a broad spectrum of critics, from national and European MPs, to the UN’s refugee agency to Amnesty International, assailed the plan, arguing it would force the EU to abandon its core principles.
“Clearly, Europe is willing to do anything, including compromising essential human rights and refugee law principles, to stem the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe,” Aurelie Ponthieu, a top official at Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement.
Under the proposed framework hashed out between the EU and Turkey at a special summit Monday, Europe would double financial assistance to help Turkey cope with the refugee crisis to €6 billion. More controversial: Brussels would accelerate Turkey’s EU membership negotiations and drop visa restrictions for all Turks traveling to the EU.
In return, Turkey would agree to take back all refugees who arrive in Greece illegally. For every Syrian sent back to Turkey, the EU would accept one Syrian from Turkey.
The aim of the strategy would be to dissuade Syrians from trying to reach Greece in the first place. Any Syrian who traveled to Greece illegally and was sent back to Turkey would end up at the back of the queue for legal entry.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Turkish counterpart, Ahmed Davutoğlu, met in the Turkish city of Izmir on Tuesday, to reaffirm their commitment to closer cooperation.
“As a first reaction I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another, without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law,” Filippo Grandi, the UN’s top refugee official, told the European Parliament Tuesday. “Europe is facing a moment of truth. This is the time to reaffirm the values upon which it was built.”
Opponents of the deal argue that Turkey has shown little respect for Western values. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has mounted a brutal offensive against the country’s Kurdish minority in recent months, casting them as domestic terrorists. He has also cracked down on critical media, orchestrating a raid on the country’s biggest opposition newspaper just last week.
While many of the critics could be described as the usual suspects — NGOs and left-leaning political groups — conservatives also expressed serious reservations.
In Germany, the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel’s center-right conservatives, vowed “massive resistance” against the planned lifting of visa restrictions for Turks traveling to Europe. Marcel Huber, a key aide to CSU leader Horst Seehofer, said the party was also skeptical about a proposal to trade refugees in Greece for different ones in Turkey, arguing there was no guarantee it would lead to a drop in refugee numbers.
“We’re going to have a close look to ensure there is a balanced trade-off,” he said in Munich.
Clock is ticking
European officials don’t have much time to overcome such resistance.
Leaders hope to finalize the deal with Turkey at next week’s EU summit, set to begin March 17 in Brussels.
The first priority is to win backing from the European Parliament, which until now has been left largely on the sidelines. The Parliament’s endorsement is necessary for the visa liberalization plan to go forward.
Despite strong opposition in some quarters, a majority of MEPs is likely to end up supporting the blueprint. The center-right European People’s Party, the largest parliamentary group, signaled its endorsement Tuesday.
“We are fighting the smugglers, we are stopping illegal migration together with the Turks” — that was the main message from the EU-Turkey summit, EPP chief Manfred Weber said. “At the same time, we are offering means for legal migration.”
National governments also appeared to be willing to back the deal. After months of divisive debate over how to deal with the influx, a consensus evolved at Monday’s summit that a deal with Turkey, however distasteful, is Europe’s least bad option.
Most important, the bloc’s most influential member, Germany, is pushing hard for an agreement.
Nonetheless, working out the deals will be fraught. In addition to settling the legal questions surrounding granting Turkey visa liberalization and advancing its membership application, EU members will have to come to an agreement over how to resettle those refugees sent from Turkey.
The hope is that few will come. The deal, along with stricter patrols of the sea corridor between Turkey and Greece, could convince many refugees not to make the trip.
If fewer come, not many would have to be resettled in the EU. Union officials said they only anticipated having to resettle about 10,000 Syrians coming from Turkey. Higher numbers would be an indication that the arrangement wasn’t working.
The EU has existing quotas to accept about 180,000 refugees across the bloc. But many states, in particular Eastern European countries, have balked at accepting the refugees.
If there are signs the numbers of new arrivals are dwindling, however, that may soon change.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told Italy’s Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday that his country was prepared to take in its quota of 7,000 refugees, provided Poland can vet them first.
“You cannot make the selection and then send them to us,” he said.