How many Syrian refugees will EU accept from Turkey?
Recently intensified dialogue between Turkey and the EU has already produced the opening of chapter 17, which addresses economic and monetary policy, on Dec. 14, nearly two years after the last chapter was opened. This increased the number of opened chapters to 15 out of 35 with hopes that 2016 will witness the opening of five more chapters. This is, of course, a result of a drastic change in the vision of EU leaders towards Turkey in the face of a growing refugee problem.
As part of the deal reached on Nov 29, two parties will further increase the frequency of political dialogue and in this context Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will travel to Brussels on Dec. 17 to meet eight EU countries at a mini summit. This meeting, which will bring Turkey, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Greece as well as the EU Commission, will further discuss ways to stem the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees from Turkey via Greece to Europe.
The EU, on the one hand, is trying to replace the existing Frontex with a new mechanism that would increase the efficiency of the EU Commission in addressing the unexpected flow of refugees from either Africa or the Middle East. On the other hand, it brokers deals with countries like Turkey to discourage refugees hitting the road for a dangerous adventures towards the European continent.
This is why the Brussels summit is very important. It’s no secret that both sides have expectations from each other. The EU is very keen on Turkey’s further measures to keep refugees in its territories by intensifying law enforcement means. Increasing border security and cooperation with EU are also among the EU demands from Turkey.
It is not a coincidence that Davutoğlu paid a snap visit to Bulgaria only two days before the Brussels meeting as the action plan pushes Turkey to step up cooperation with Bulgarian and Greek authorities to prevent irregular migration across the common land borders by effectively implementing the tri-partite agreement signed in May 2015 establishing a common center in Capitan Andreevo.
The EU, on the other hand, will provide immediate and continuous humanitarian assistance and will significantly expand its overall financial support. An initial 3 billion euros will be provided through adequate sources to Turkey in its spending for Syrian refugees.
However, another aspect of this understanding requires the acceptance of a certain number of Syrian refugees by EU countries. This is still a vivid and controversial issue within the EU as many Eastern European countries are not happy with the idea of imposing compulsory quotas.
Turkey obviously expects to hear concrete commitments from these eight countries and the number of refugees they will accept in a certain time frame. However, there are no strong signs that these eight countries will be able to announce any numbers at this meeting in Brussels. The expectation in Ankara is to hear substantial numbers, if not during this meeting, then at upcoming ones.