The EU-Turkey deal: Implementation goes first
DIMITRIOS PAPADIMOULISThe devastating war in Syria and the drama of millions of refugees forced to flee their country has stirred up a rather controversial debate. On one side, a significant part of the analysis fails to point out that the end of the humanitarian crisis can only come after all actors involved in the Syrian war reach a compromise and achieve a cease-fire. Essential cooperation between the United States and Russia is of paramount importance towards this direction, coupled with the strong commitment of regional states, including Turkey, to control spillover in adjacent areas, such as the Kurdish-dominated regions in both Turkey and Syria.
On the other side, the bilateral deal between EU and Turkey is entrenched with as many challenges as uncertainties. It is certain that the ongoing talks between both sides could improve current problems or difficulties, and from that prism we should be optimistic. Turkey has hosted a big number of refugees, more than 2 million refugees, but still the Turkish government should emphasize more on the provision of better services for refugees, notably in the field of health, education, infrastructure and access to labor so that the disbursement of European financial aid can be properly allocated and efficient. In addition to that, Ankara should come up with specific project proposals so that resources can be used in full and meet the needs of the refugees.
With respect to the protection of human rights according to the EU and international conventions, and towards ensuring that all people entering Turkey are treated properly, Ankara should build trust with the EU. This can only come when all fundamental rights, including the freedom of speech, are protected. A la carte adoption of some or part of human and fundamental rights means no adoption at all. This similarly goes with what is happening in Turkey’s southeastern borders, the ongoing curfews, the militarization of the region and the death of people. Such concerns were not at all addressed in the latest statement, but remain always at the top of the agenda, especially from the moment Turkey wants to cooperate closely with the EU and seek membership.
Furthermore, Turkey has to finally address smuggler networks which operate along its coastline. Refugee inflows have not decreased. On the contrary, we are still witnessing reluctance of local authorities to deal with this issue and dismantle this lucrative industry that takes advantage of desperate people. In similar respect, the expansion of such operations can only blow this deal and feed distrust between EU and Turkey.
In this sensitive environment, Greece and Turkey are making efforts to foster sincere cooperation. This cooperation can be productive and efficient as long as both countries show solidarity and commitment to address the massive refugee flows in the best possible way, abiding by the agreements and avoiding unilateral actions. In the framework of this deal, Greece will support Turkey in dealing with irregular migrants, and Turkey will protect them in full accordance with the EU and international law, thus excluding any kind of collective expulsion. This is a positive and demanding challenge that we should build on while acknowledging that this deal will be further scrutinized, monitored and improved.
*Dimitrios Papadimoulis is vice president of the European Parliament, Syriza MEP.