EU-Turkey Migrant Deal: Europe Facing 'Herculean Task', Juncker Says

EU | March 18, 2016, Friday // 19:51|  views

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) European Council President Donald Tusk (C) and European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker during a news conference at the end of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 18, 2016. Photo

The EU will disburse EUR 3 B to Turkey until 2018 for Syrian refugees and will allocate as much additionally after that period, the EU and Turkey's leaders have announced.

Additionally, Ankara will work to implement its remaining 45 (out of a total of 72) prerequisites to be granted visa-free travel to Europe by the end of the Dutch Presidency of the Council of EU at the end of June.

Within the same timeframe, Chapter No. 33 of EU accession negotiations, the one on budget and finance, will be opened to Turkey after no progress on negotiations had been recorded for years.

"[It is a] historic day because we reached a very important agreement," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a joint press conference with EU Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The three made statements following the third EU-Turkey summit in four months at which Brussels and Ankara hammered out a deal aimed at curbing the migrant influx into Europe. An agreement was reached on a “one-for-one” principle according to which a Syrian refugee would be relocated to Europe in return for each one sent back to Turkey from Greece's islands. All migrants arriving in Greece after midnight on March 20, Sunday will be sent back.

No mention was made of specific demands by Bulgaria, which had insisted the agreement should provide guarantees that no alternative migrant route to the one through the Western Balkans (practically closed last week) would be opened up via Bulgaria by smugglers.

At the press conference Davutoglu downplayed suggestions Turkey was taking part in the negotiations to get hold of billions of euros. He added the Brussels-Ankara partnership had a strategic dimension, since "there is no Turkish future without the EU and no EU future without Turkey."

Asked whether there is a quota of migrants that would be “exchanged” between the EU and Turkey, he said the number 72 000 that had appeared in the media was a “preliminary quota” of migrants who would be “exchange at the first stage of the process”.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for his part said EU institutions will work toward a goal of 6000 migrants being relocated every month from Greece and Italy (the external EU borders most affected by last year's peak of the migrant crisis), adding member states' leaders had taken on the commitment to help speed up the process.

"This is a Herculean task facing us, especially Greece is facing a Herculean task. It is the greatest challenge the European Union is facing yet."

Juncker added that EUR 30 M will фe disbursed in emergency to the Greek army that helps migrants stranded on the country's borders. "Idomeni does not represent my idea of Europe, and that's why we will work on this,“ he made clear.

He also noted that asylum candidates will be able to lodge appeals against refusals.

EU Council President Donald Tusk asserted asylum applications would be treated individually, excluding all kinds of collеctive expulsions. He added the UNCHR would be invited to observe and assist the process.

On steps that are needed to convince the Greek Cypriot administration to agree to unfreeze negotiations, Tusk said that, even though he would have preferred a better agreement with Turkey on the Cyprus issue, “a piece of something is much better than all of nothing.”

Cyprus, a EU member since 2004, had also raised objections to the Turkey's demands to have the accession process refreshed. Nicosia has been effectively boycotting Ankara's negotiation process for a decade due to the Cyprus dispute. As a result, Turkey refuses to allow ships coming from the Greek Cypriot part into its ports.

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Tags: Ahmet Davutoglu, turkey, Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, migrants, relocation, greece, Bulgaria


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