|Bowing in front of Erdoğan is certainly not ideal — EU diplomat|
quarta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2015
EU countries still bickering over Turkey
EU countries still bickering over Turkey
As another migration summit approaches, finding the money proves difficult.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 11/26/15, 5:30 AM CET
The EU-Turkey summit set for Sunday in Brussels was never going to be easy, but Tuesday’s news that Turkish forces had shot down a Russian jet on the Syrian border has raised the political stakes even more in what will be an unusual effort to find solutions to Europe’s migration crisis.
EU leaders are hoping to hammer out a deal with Turkey on stemming the flow of refugees from the Middle East through Turkey to Europe — an agreement that includes financial and political incentives for Ankara to cooperate. But key questions remained unanswered ahead of the meeting with the country’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Even before the Turkey-Russia incident, the November 13 Paris attacks and subsequent concerns about border security and the possible link between migration and terrorism had complicated the debate over refugees.
One of the issues is to get all countries to contribute to a €3 billion fund that Turkey wants from the EU to help stem the flow of refugees.
At a summit earlier this month in Malta, the European Commission put forward a proposal that asked countries to provide €2.5 billion of the total. This week it published a legal framework for the plan and pushed countries “to commit formally their financial share” of the total by December 21, so that the money could be spent starting in January.
But not all countries are happy with the arrangement.
“Some member states say that the European Commission should find more money from its own budget,” a EU diplomat said.
Under the deal Germany will have to pay €534 million, the U.K. €410 million, France €386 million and Italy €281 million. So far only Britain has openly announced its pledge. Other countries have said they have earmarked the money in their budgets, according to diplomats.
Sources close to the talks with Ankara say they are confident that the funding will eventually be secured from all countries, but one said there is concern that “the Turks have not attached a clear timeline for this money.”
The worry among some EU members, the source said, is that Ankara will want more money at a later date.
Leaders at the summit will also focus on approving the joint action plan already agreed with Ankara in October. The plan envisages supporting the 2.2 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey by giving them access to education and employment. It also includes a plan to send illegal migrants now in the EU back to Turkey, starting from October of next year.
Another possible area where disagreement could arise is over the issue of setting up refugee processing centers, known as hotspots, in Turkey. The Commission had hoped to set up hotspots similar to ones already running in Greece and Italy, but sources said the Turks remain opposed to this idea.
“Germany would like to see hotspots in Turkey and along all the Western Balkan route to have an orderly flow,” said one diplomat.
There are larger political questions at stake, too — notably the question of Turkey’s longstanding application to join the European Union. Negotiations for its EU accession have been stalled for years over concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rights record.
But the deal on cooperating with refugees uses the re-opening of accession talks as an incentive for Ankara to participate — even though the Commission said earlier this month that Turkey still has a lot of work to do if it wants to make progress on its bid.
The EU is also offering to consider loosening visa restrictions on Turks wanting to travel to Europe — long an issue between the two sides.
The political give-and-take makes some countries nervous.
Bowing in front of Erdoğan is certainly not ideal — EU diplomat
“Bowing in front of Erdoğan is certainly not ideal,” said one EU diplomat, ”but we do not have much leverage and I am not even so sure he will respect any kind of deal.”
But diplomats said Europe does have leverage when it comes to the accession talks, especially if negotiation reopens on the chapters on the rule of law — something Erdoğan, who has been shutting down newspapers and arresting journalists and judges, could fear.
To get the deal through, “Turkey must now meet the conditions for opening new chapters or accelerating the visa facilitation procedure,” said Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador in Turkey and now a scholar at Carnegie Europe, a think tank. “This is especially true for rule-of-law in the context of the accession negotiations.”
And there is another problem: Cyprus. The eastern Mediterranean island has blocked Turkey’s accession talks for several years citing the presence of Turkish troops in the breakaway north of the island.
Last month Cyprus’ foreign affairs minister, Ioannis Kasoulides, told reporters that the EU must cooperate with Ankara on refugee flows to Europe, but said his government will not agree to opening accession talks on the rule of law as long as Turkey does not soften its position on Cyprus.
Turkey is also asking to have high-level meetings twice a year with the EU, according to diplomats: one of them in a full summit with European leaders, similar to what was done with earlier EU applicant countries that would be debriefed immediately after the talks; and another with top officials including Council President Donald Tusk, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.