06. Oktober 2015 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „EU leaders ask Erdoğan to back radical refugee plan“ · Kategorien: Europa, Griechenland, Italien, Türkei · Tags: ,

Quelle: The Guardian

Turkish president will extract high price for agreeing to proposals to tighten up Europe’s borders hatched by Germany and the EC

EU leaders have pleaded with Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to join forces behind a radical plan aimed at stemming the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants to Europe.

The Europeans are offering eventually to take half a million Syrians from new refugee and asylum-processing camps they would co-fund in Turkey in return for Ankara tightening its borders to stop people being smuggled in hazardous vessels to Greece, and agreeing to take back migrants who make it “illegally” to Europe via Turkey.

As part of any possible pact, Erdoğan pressed for a relaxation in visa requirements for Turks travelling to Europe. He also wants the EU to list Turkey as “a safe third country”, effectively whitewashing Ankara’s increasingly repressive policies and deteriorating human rights and media freedoms record.

“Europe has to manage its borders better. We expect Turkey to do the same,” said Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, following talks with Erdogan. “The situation where hundreds of thousands are fleeing to the European Union from Turkey must be stopped.”

Erdoğan responded that Ankara was hosting almost 10 times as many Syrian refugees as the EU. While open to talks with Brussels, he said the key to stopping the flow of refugees was to establish a no-fly zone over the Turkish-Syria border and a buffer zone in northern Syria. This is viewed as a non-starter in Europe and in Washington, but Tusk said: “The European Union is ready to take up all issues with Turkey so we can also discuss a possible buffer zone in Syria.”

Erdoğan came to Brussels at a time of unusual political vulnerability at home, but holding most of the cards in the migration crisis and intending to extract a high price for agreeing to a new plan hatched by Germany and the European commission.

“Erdoğan is weak at home. But on this he’s in a position of incredible strength and we’re in a position of incredible weakness,” said a senior EU diplomat. “The [immigration] system has collapsed. We rush from one meeting to another. The politicians need to be seen to be acting, to be doing something. This accentuates the sense of chaos.”

Turkey is home to 2 million Syrian refugees and is the source of most of the influx into Europe of recent months that has quickly ballooned into one of Europe’s biggest crises, triggering panic, the erection of national border controls, razorwire fences and endless feuding between EU member states.

A pact with Turkey is now seen as the key to the effort to turn chaos into control, not least in Germany, which expects the arrival of 1 million newcomers this year, and where the chancellor, Angela Merkel, has become the driver of an embryonic common European immigration regime that would take some of the load off Berlin.

Merkel saw Erdoğan at the United Nations last week and the European commission at the weekend leaked details of an “action plan” aimed at coaxing the Turks into cooperation. No agreement is expected on Monday in Brussels, but the hope is to finalise the outlines of a new policy with Turkey at an EU summit next week.

Erdoğan has sunk to pariah status in the west since 2013 because of his hardline responses to internal dissent. Europe’s refugee emergency, however, has its leaders increasingly keen to overlook the problems.

“Without Turkish support, no solution to the refugee crisis is possible,” said the European Stability Initiative thinktank. “There are two indispensable players in any solution to this crisis: Germany and Turkey. There is little that EU institutions can bring to the table. It is Germany that must take the lead.”

If Turkey is the main source of new arrivals, Greece is where they enter the EU – 370,000 this year. Controlling the frontiers and turning people back is complicated by the fact that the borders are maritime, not land. Only 4% of new arrivals are being registered in Greece, according to senior Brussels sources, and the Greeks do not have the fingerprinting equipment required to register them.

The aim is to have the Turks and the Greeks mount joint border controls at sea, organised by Frontex, the EU’s borders agency. It is demanding almost 800 new staff from the member states. Diplomats say it is more likely to get 400, mainly sent to Greece.

The idea is that the Turks and Greeks mount joint maritime border patrols and that intercepted boat people be turned back to Turkey.

The commission said on Monday it was sending teams of experts to Ankara to discuss the details of what it described as “a common list of actions, a mutual confidence pact”.

One problem is that while the commission in Brussels is making the running in calls for refugee quotas and other aspects of a common European policy, it does not take in any refugees. That falls to national governments and countries, with the attendant political risks.

Immigration is likely to help bring down the Polish government in elections this month. On Sunday, the anti-immigrant Austrian far right is tipped to perform strongly in elections in Vienna, a permanent social-democratic stronghold.

The commissioner in charge of immigration policy, Dimitris Avramopoulos, bragged last week of his lack of accountability on what is one of the most contentious areas of European politics.

“The commission is here for five years to do its job … What is driving us is not to be re-elected. That is why for us the political cost means nothing,” he said. “This is the message I would send all around Europe: stop thinking about the so-called political cost.”

A plan forced through last month to share 120,000 refugees across the EU triggered a huge row between governments. If Berlin and Brussels agreed to take an additional 500,000 from Turkey, Germany would insist they be spread across the EU, inviting a backlash. Officials and diplomats working on the policy say that the best they can hope for is a set of measures that might slow down the flow of refugees. They point out that although there is agreement on sharing the 120,000, it is difficult to locate potential beneficiaries. They move out of Greece and southern Italy quickly, refuse to be registered, and avoid “reception” camps.

But EU acknowledgment that Turkey is a “safe third country” and statements about visa liberalisation could help Erdogan in elections in three weeks after his Justice and Development party lost its ruling majority for the first time in June.

The EU defines a safe country, to where migrants can be deported, as one with “a democratic system, no persecution, no torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, no threat of violence and no armed conflict”.

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