'No concessions' to Turkey on rights, visas in migrant deal: France
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 12, 2016 during a meeting of European social democratic leaders on the future of the European Union. AFP PHOTO
French President Francois Hollande said March 12 that the EU must not grant Turkey any concessions on human rights or visas in exchange for guarantees to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.
"There cannot be any concessions on the matter of human rights or the criteria for visa liberalization," Hollande told reporters ahead of the resumption next week of tough negotiations between Turkey and the EU in Brussels.
Under a controversial draft agreement reached this week, Turkey would take back all migrants landing illegally in Greece in a bid to reduce their incentive to pay people smugglers for dangerous boat crossings to the Greek islands.
In return for every Syrian sent back from Greece, the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey -- which is hosting about 2.7 million people who have fled the conflict across the border.
The question of human rights in Turkey and visa liberalization should be "a factor for clarification and transparency in the relations between Turkey and Europe," Hollande said.
Earlier this week, the French leader said visa liberalization for Turkish nationals, slated to go into effect in June, would only take place if Ankara met 72 conditions.
Describing Turkey's willingness to readmit refugees and migrants who left illegally for Greece as "very important", he said there could be visa liberalization but only according to the "road-map" that had already been outlined.
"What has been agreed on is that the principle of visa liberalization could take place... in June if all the criteria are respected and there are 72 of them," he said, one of which involves the rolling out of biometric ID cards.
"If the criteria are not met, the June date will not be met either," he said.
Turkey is also demanding six billion euros ($6.6 billion) in aid, visa-free access for its nationals within Europe's passport-free Schengen zone and for swifter action to process its bid to join the EU.
The plan to expel migrants en masse from Greece has sparked international criticism, with the UN's top officials on refugees and human rights questioning whether it would be legal.
Hollande spoke after meeting in Paris on March 12 with more than a dozen social democrat leaders from the EU, including Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.