The EU must deliver on the promises made to Turkey11 Mar 2020 - 15:20
In response to the death of 36 of its troops in a Russo-Syrian airstrike in Idlib, the Turkish authorities encouraged migrants to go to the Greek border to pressure the European Union into action. The move was motivated by Erdogan’s desperate attempt to save face at home.
With Turkey mired in two international conflicts, 3.7 million Syrian refugees within its borders while 1 million stuck at its southern border, and a soaring economy, pressure on the Turkish president has been mounting.
Turkey has been moving further away from its Western allies during the last years. Erdogan’s unprecedented crackdown on civil society, oppositions, academics, journalists and judges completely stalled the already-arduous EU accession negotiations.
The administration’s recent interference in the case of political prisoner Osman Kavala, a prominent human rights activist who was rearrested on the same day of his release after spending 840 days in arbitrary detention, is a painful reminder that judicial independence in Turkey has become a pipe dream.
Blackmailing the EU is not the solution, but Ankara is right to lament Brussels’ lack of delivery on its promises
While blackmailing an already divided EU into action is not the solution to Erdogan’s myriad problems, Ankara is right to lament Brussels’ lack of delivery on its promises. Under the 2016 EU-Turkey deal, Member States committed to three obligations: a three-year 6bn EUR aid package to support the 3.7 million refugees living in Turkey, a large scale resettlement programme for vulnerable refugees, tangible benefits to Turkish citizens in the form of visa-free travel, a modernized Customs Union agreement, and the opening of new accession chapters.
Brussels kept only its first promise: its financial assistance, channelled mainly through UN agencies, has been highly successful in helping Syrian refugees in the country with education, employment and health care. But the resettlement of just 25.000 vulnerable refugees in four years’ time is nothing compared to the almost 4 million refugees that are being hosted by Turkey for years now.
None of the planned benefits to the Turkish population ever materialised either. What is more: Brussels even alienated Turkey’s pro-democratic forces by staying increasingly silent over Erdogan’s human rights abuses.
If the European Council fails to act fast, the education support to 500.000 vulnerable Syrian children abruptly ends in September
Problems do not end there. Until now, the EU’s next Multiannual Financial Framework does not foresee the continuation of its financial support to Turkey. This has devastating implications. If the European Council fails to act fast, the education support to 500.000 vulnerable Syrian children comes to an abrupt end in September.
The cash assistance that is helping 1.7 million Syrian refugees survive expires within a year. Meanwhile, the dire situation on the Greek islands calls for urgent action.
The road forward is clear: we need to conclude a new migration agreement with Turkey, which also includes humanitarian support to the recent refugees from Idlib. The promises it contains must be realistic. Key among those is a substantial long-term commitment to providing life-saving financial assistance to Syrian refugees during the coming years.
A coalition of the willing must take it upon themselves to relocate refugees from the Greek islands, where 42.000 people are stuck
Member States must abide by their promise to take over some of the most vulnerable refugees. A coalition of the willing must take it upon themselves to relocate refugees from the Greek islands, where 42.000 people are stuck.
Continuing the current transactional approach is of course not a long-term solution for resetting relations with Turkey. That will remain difficult as long as there is no improvement in the rule of law in the country. However, it is time to demonstrate to the Turkish public that we are a trustworthy partner and deliver on promises we made.