German minister to visit Turkey to discuss EU migration deal
Emine Kart - ANKARAGermany’s European affairs minister will pay a visit to Turkey later this week, German officials have said, while dubbing a migrant agreement between the EU and Turkey that was signed to curb the refugee flow to the bloc as “looking increasingly precarious.”
In his discussions with Turkish officials during the visit from Aug. 25 to Aug. 27, German Europe Minister Michael Roth is likely to focus on the agreement struck in March between the EU’s leaders and the government of Turkey at an EU-Turkey summit, the same German officials, who requested anonymity, said on Aug. 22.
“Minister Michael Roth visits Turkey, with discussions likely to focus on the EU-Turkey deal on refugees and visa-free travel, which looks increasingly precarious,” the officials said.
The March deal outlined that migrants crossing from Turkey to Greek islands who were not applying for asylum in Europe should be returned to Turkey, while Turkey agreed to control its borders to prevent illegal migration.
In exclusive remarks delivered to Reuters on Aug. 16, Roth said Turkey was facing a long and arduous path to obtaining visa-free travel within the European Union, and immediate prospects were not bright.
Roth told Reuters it was clear from the start that the migrant deal struck between the EU and Turkey required the completion of 72 criteria before Turks could be granted visa-free travel.
“Turkey faces a very long and difficult path. The criteria must be fulfilled, and it doesn’t look good at the moment,” Roth said. “As long as the 72 criteria have not been fulfilled - and a few are still open - there cannot be visa liberalization.”
Yenel: ‘The pinnacle’ for Turkey in 2023
Just days later, Turkish Ambassador to the European Union Selim Yenel told German newspaper Die Welt in an interview published Aug. 19 that Turkey was aiming to join the EU in 2023, the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Turkish republic. “It would be an achievement for my country to become a member at that time,” he said.
Ankara’s post-July 15 attempted coup crackdown and its talk of reinstating the death penalty have raised fresh doubts on the future EU relations.
“The Turkish government wants to join the EU by 2023,” Yenel, Turkey’s permanent representative ambassador to the EU, told Die Welt. “It would be the pinnacle for my country, being a member then.”
In the long run, not being a member was not acceptable for his country, he also underlined.
Turkey has said it has been complying with its end of the migrant deal. More than 1 million refugees and other migrants have reached Greece in smugglers’ boats from Turkey since the beginning of last year while on their way to Europe’s prosperous heartland, especially Germany.
Under the terms of the deal, which was widely considered controversial, refugees who arrived in Greece from Turkey after March 20 were to be returned and for each of those refugees sent back across the Aegean Sea, one refugee from civil-war-torn Syria who was camping out in Turkey was to be allowed to migrate into an EU nation.
Since the EU-Turkey deal came into effect on March 20, the flow of migrants has slowed down to just over 10,000 people - at least 482 of whom have been returned to Turkey.
Piri, Brok to visit Turkey
Meanwhile, Elmar Brok, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, and Kati Piri, the rapporteur for Turkey at the European Parliament, were scheduled to pay a joint visit to Turkey on Aug. 23.
The visit by the two European lawmakers will mark the first visit from the European Parliament to Turkey since the July 15 failed coup attempt.