sábado, 9 de abril de 2016
How to make the EU-Turkey deal work
How to make the EU-Turkey deal work
The EU should take its critics seriously. But the current deal is the best approach we have.
By GUNTRAM WOLFF 4/10/16, 5:50 AM CET
Critics have called the EU-Turkey deal on refugees immoral and raised questions about potential breaches of international law, but — like it or not — the deal is an improvement. It brought the continent back from the brink, staving off the collapse of the Schengen zone and a humanitarian disaster in Greece. Europe must now focus on the deal’s implementation, offer technical assistance and support political stability in Greece, and find ways to make the resettlement program work.
By negotiating with Turkey the EU wanted to reduce the number of refugees arriving at its borders and break up the profitable smugglers network. The deal hinges on Turkey taking back all migrants who arrive in Greece illegally and the EU in turn welcoming an equivalent number of Syrian refugees from Turkey. In many ways, this arrangement echoes the U.K.’s approach to the Syrian refugee crisis, in which Britain accepts refugees from Turkey directly but refuses entry to those who attempt to cross the border by other means.
The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and various NGOs have announced they will pull out of Greek refugee camps. They consider the return of migrants to Turkey an illegal “mass expulsion.” Turkey should not be considered a safe country, they argue, and Greece’s camps now serve as “detention centers.”
There is some truth to these claims, and the EU should take them seriously. But NGOs haven’t proposed any alternative approaches.
The distribution of refugees across the EU had been decided in accordance with EU law, in a way that would have allowed the EU as a whole to cope with large numbers of refugees. But many national leaders refused to accept the decision and few refugees have been resettled. For countries such as Germany, Sweden and Austria, continuing to accept the majority of refugees has become politically untenable. This became obvious when Sweden and Austria both moved to close their borders and anti-immigration parties gained popularity in German regional elections.
Before the deal was struck, the trend toward securing the borders — in the Balkans, Central Europe and Italy — was already gaining momentum. If it had continued, it could have resulted in a shift in the EU’s external borders, with Greece and Italy suddenly outside the free-movement Schengen zone. As a result, a huge number of refugees would have found themselves in Greece and other countries on the EU’s periphery — a highly unsatisfactory outcome for everyone involved.
The current deal is therefore an improvement. The real issue now is implementation. The Commission has estimated that the practical implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement will cost around €280 million over the next six months, a surprisingly low amount.
One of the main priorities is to send support to Greece, the weakest link in the chain. The EU needs to urgently deliver on their promised technical assistance in processing migrants, especially as the UNHCR and NGOs scale back on their work in the region.
More important still is general political stability in Greece. The Troika’s return to Athens to negotiate the terms of further financial assistance should go hand in hand with a more generous approach to Greek debt repayments. In particular, it is time to soften the requirement to drive up primary surpluses to 3.5 percent. This goal is objectively too high and risks destabilizing the Greek economy and political system. A change of direction already makes good economic sense — now the added tension of the refugee crisis makes it even more urgent.
Another vital aspect of the deal is accelerating the refugee resettlement process. The current resettlement agreement foresees at least 20,000 relocations from Greece by mid-May 2016. This is too few given that around 50,000 refugees are currently in Greece, living in difficult conditions.
Likewise, the EU needs to expedite its resettlement of refugees from Turkish camps. It needs to make it clear to refugees contemplating making the dangerous trip across the border into Europe that they are better off staying put and waiting for their asylum claims to be processed. The larger the number of people directly resettled from Turkey to the EU, the more the EU will be effective in undermining smugglers’ attempts to find new roads via Libya or the Caucasus.
Unfortunately, we still don’t know exactly how resettlement from Turkey will be handled. Germany has started to receive small numbers of Syrians directly from Turkey, but nothing is known about other EU countries.
The initial allocation of 72,000 refugees from Turkey to the EU is certainly too low to effectively deter smugglers from searching for alternative routes. To do so, EU member states need to fulfill — and then surpass — their current commitments.
This deal with Turkey will be difficult to implement. But without it, the EU’s external borders would collapse completely and Greece and other border countries would be left to fend for themselves. The focus now needs to be on supporting Greece generously and on increasing quickly the number of refugees taken directly from Turkey to undermine the smugglers and provide humanitarian relief. Without these actions, the moral compromises made in a deal with Turkey will have been in vain.
Guntram Wolff is director of the think tank Bruegel.