Turkey-EU migrant deal still fragile despite progress: Brussels
AFP photoA comprehensive deal reached between Ankara and Brussels in a bid to stop the flow of irregular migrants from Turkey to Greece has shown further progress since April, however that progress remains fragile, the European Commission has said.
The second report examining the state of the implementation of the Turkey-EU Statement that was agreed to in mid-March was adopted by the European Commission on June 15 in Brussels, outlining the state of ongoing discussions over visa liberalization as well as the implementation of the Readmission Agreement.
“Today, the commission adopted its second report on the EU-Turkey Statement showing that while there has been further good progress in its implementation, progress achieved so far remains fragile. The continued successful implementation depends mainly on the political determination of all parties involved,” read the report.
The fact that the number of people crossing irregularly or losing their lives in the Aegean Sea has sharply declined constitutes the best proof of the effectiveness of the deal between the two parties, the report underlined, informing that in the weeks before the implementation of the statement, around 1,740 migrants were crossing the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands every day. By contrast, the average daily number of irregular crossings since May 1 was down to 47.
One-for-one formula works
The return of irregular migrants from Greek islands to Turkey was also functioning, as 462 migrants have been returned to Turkey, in accordance with EU and international law and in full respect of the principle of non-refoulement, the report underlined.
“A total of 511 Syrians have been resettled so far from Turkey to the EU under the 1:1 scheme (additional 408 since the first progress report) – substantially exceeding the number of returns from Greece to Turkey,” it said. The deal obliges the EU to accept one Syrian refugee from Turkey in return of Turkish readmission of one Syrian refugee from Greek islands.
Technical talks for visa waiver continue
On the most controversial part of the deal, visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, the report stressed Turkey needed to fully fulfill all 72 criteria outlined in the roadmap. “Since May 4, further progress has been made, notably with the entry into force of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement that still requires a final decision on actual application. The commission continues to support Turkey in the work that still needs to be done to fulfil the remaining benchmarks and invites Turkey to take these measures as soon as possible to enable the EU to lift the visa requirements for Turkish citizens,” it said.
On one of the much-discussed remaining criteria that Turkey needed to fulfill, the report said, asked the Turkish government “to revise the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards, notably by better aligning the definition of terrorism in order to narrow the scope of the definition and by introducing a criterion of proportionality.”
Chapter 33 will be opened at end of June
The report also cited progress as for the opening of chapters, particularly on Chapter 33 on financial and budgetary provisions that will likely be opened on the last day of June. “In addition, preparatory work continues at an accelerated pace to make progress on five chapters, without prejudice to member states’ positions in accordance with the existing rules,” it said, adding work has almost been finalized in the areas of energy and judiciary and fundamental rights.