On the 9th September the first high-level political meeting since the 15 July coup between EU and Turkey took place in Ankara. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister for EU Affairs Ömer Çelik and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security, and Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, from the side of EU, discussed Turkey’s accession negotiations, Turkey-EU cooperation in the fields of energy, economy and trade, migration crisis and visa liberalization process. EU representatives pointed out that new chapters of accession, concerning justice, rights, freedom and security areas, should be opened. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu insisted that a ‘’concrete road map’’ should be created for visa liberalization in order to ensure a consensus is reached on the deal to stop migrants.
EU has been harshly criticizing the crackdown that followed the coup attempt in Turkey. Tens of thousands were arrested or dismissed due to their links to the coup. The position of the EU is that Turkey had to behave in a manner fit for a candidate EU country, ensuring the rule of law. EU demanded softening Turkey’s anti-terrorist laws pursuant to the danger of them being used against academics and journalists. Turkey on the other hand justifies them by citing multiple security threats. As a result of this argument the visa liberalization process was postponed till the end of 2016. Turkey, in its turn, threatened to sabotage the 3-billion euros anti-migration deal.
According to Turkish officials, Turkey expected more support from the EU after the coup attempt, which took the lives of more than 260 people. Instead it is being criticized for not preserving democratic values and not being ready to join the EU. Ömer Çelik pointed out that Turkey is ready to discuss democracy and human rights but then EU should open the relevant chapters of accession negotiations, which have been blocked by Cyprus because of the Turkish occupation issue in the north of the island. EU Member States have to unanimously agree to open chapters 23 and 24.
Visa-free Turkey in exchange for migrant-free EU
Less than a week before the high-level meeting in Ankara, on 3rd September, Ömer Çelik said that Turkey will fulfill its obligation under the migration deal of keeping migrants away from the EU even if it refuses to implement the visa liberalization for Turkish citizens. The expanded cooperation however will depend on the EU complying with its part of the deal. Turkey is not going to participate in a new arrangement, which might be needed in the future in order to deal with a greater migration crisis, without a visa-free regime, said Çelik.
According to the current arrangement, Greece can return to Turkey all new irregular migrants who have arrived after the 20th of March. Additionally, the EU has to increase resettlement of Syrian refugees in Turkey and increase financial aid for refugees staying in Turkey.
The EU-Turkey deal has been widely criticized for violating EU human rights commitments and contradicting its policy of high asylum standards for its neighboring countries.
Sources: Hurriyet Daily News EurActiv.com The Washington Times Albawaba Voa
Photo: European Parliament