EU-Turkey relations in view of the refugee crisis
The refugee crisis has infused new life into the flagging bilateral relationship between the EU and Turkey. Condemned to succeed in their negotiations to stem the irregular flow of refugees and economic migrants, the agreement struck on 17-18 March has been criticised in the media and by NGOs on moral and humanitarian grounds, notably with regard to the 1-for-1 resettlement arrangement for Syrian refugees, the practicalities of the implementation of the scheme in Greece and the level of protection extended to refugees returned to Turkey. Speaking at a seminar at CEPS on April 5th, Turkey’s Ambassador Selim Yenel and DG NEAR’s Patrick Paquet dismissed such criticism, stating that the EU-Turkey deal will help to save lives, protect refugees and assist states in their efforts to return economic migrants. They also stressed that the deal provides an opportunity to develop closer relations. It lays down an agenda for, inter alia, the completion of the visa liberalisation process, the upgrading of the customs union and the opening of a new chapter (budget) in the accession negotiations. The opening of additional chapters ultimately depends on a settlement over the Cyprus issue. Both speakers at the CEPS event considered the chances of such a historic breakthrough in 2016 as real.