Turkey to implement EU deal despite suspension of agreement with Greece: Diplomat
Sevil ERKUŞ - ANKARA
Turkey will continue to implement the requirements of a migrant deal with the European Union, known as the March 18 agreement, despite a decision to “suspend the implementation” of a bilateral readmission treaty with Greece, a Turkish diplomat has told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“We have an agreement with the EU and it will be practiced identically,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
“Suspending the bilateral readmission agreement with Greece legally might influence the March 18 deal. But the agreement with the EU will be valid and the decision regarding Greece will not directly influence the readmission treaty with the EU in practice,” the diplomat noted.
Turkey has suspended its bilateral migrant readmission deal with Greece in response to a decision by a Greek court to release eight former Turkish soldiers who fled the country a day after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on June 6.
“We have a migrant deal with the EU. It is being implemented. We have a bilateral readmission deal with Greece. We have now suspended this agreement. The process is not fully over but our works towards Greece will continue,” Çavuşoğlu had told reporters in the southern province of Antalya.
This agreement with Greece constitutes the legal backbone of the migrant deal between Turkey and the EU, which was brokered on March 18, 2016, aiming to stem the flow of irregular migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands. The deal says for every Syrian migrant sent back to Turkey from the Greek islands, one Syrian in Turkey will be resettled in the EU.
Given that Turkey and the EU could not accomplish the readmission agreement (in return for visa liberalization for Turkish nationals) due to differences over the definition of terrorism, the cancellation of the Turkey-Greece agreement legally makes the implementation of the migrant deal difficult.
The EU side is waiting to see the implications of the Turkish government’s decision. “It’s not likely to influence the migrant deal, but we will monitor its influence on the field,” an EU official told the Daily News.
The decision comes after Greek courts released all eight fugitives and refused to extradite them on grounds they would not get a fair trial in Turkey.
The Turkish diplomat said that although Greek courts argue the lack of fair trial for the former soldiers, the Greek government has been “sending all Turkish citizens back to Turkey when they catch them trying to cross the border illegally” for the last one-and-a-half to two years.
The number of daily illegal crossings from Turkey to the Greek islands fell to nearly 70 since the deal was implemented in 2016.