EU reaches consensus on refugee deal

The 28 EU states have agreed on a joint refugee plan which they are ready to present to Turkey for negotiation. Many commentators still oppose the planned deal with Turkey on the grounds that it is immoral. Others see it as the only way to stop the people smugglers and create legal escape routes for refugees.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The best of all bad options

There is no alternative to a partnership with Turkey, the centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung comments:

“Of all the bad alternatives open to us a deal with Turkey is the best, because it will hopefully curtail human smuggling and give the refugees some protection and predictability. And while not letting Europe off its humanitarian hook, it will nevertheless take the wind from the sails of the hysterical doom-and-gloom cohort, which has in the meantime made panic-mongering the currency in a dirty political business. Nevertheless the deal is anything but on the up-and-up. ... The interests of Turkey are: international recognition, influence on the EU and access to it, and external support. The country has absolutely no interest in being seens as a marketplace for global human trafficking. And it would be good if the tourists came back sooner or later. So it's not as if Europe were on its knees.”

L'Obs (FR) /

Stop human trafficking networks now

The president and the director of the Jacques Delors Institute, António Vitorino and Yves Bertoncini, call on the EU to focus on effectively combatting human trafficking gangs on the basis of the agreement with Turkey:

“The European summit of March 7 requested that Donald Tusk formulate the agreement in such a way that it would comply with European and international law. That will not necessarily be easy. ... But if it works, it will free the refugees from the grip of human smugglers by helping them directly in Syria and organising their journey to Europe. The precondition for that, however, is that the 'reinstallment' [of refugees in Turkey] really does take place, and fast. Otherwise the agreement will lose its humanitarian dimension. ... A further condition is the effective destruction of the smuggling networks, which must also be prevented from setting up shop in other countries. If these two conditions aren't met, the EU-Turkey agreement will be nothing but a fool's game.”

T24 (TR) /

Immoral trade in human lives

The planned EU-Turkey deal violates both the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights, the liberal Internet portal T24 criticises:

“Both conventions forbid the deportation of entire groups of people, regardless of how safe the country of destination is. The ugly side of these negotiations is that they deal in human lives, above all those of people who are fleeing war. What's more, Turkey's response to the EU's immoral offer must also be discussed.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Ankara won't stop refugees

The agreement with Turkey aimed at keeping refugees out of Europe could actually have the opposite effect, the conservative daily Die Presse warns:

“The temptation to simply naturalise the refugees currently in Turkey - both those fleeing war and those seeking a better life in Europe - and give them the Turkish passports this entitles them to along with the friendly advice to make use of them will be too great to resist. Not discounting the possibility that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long been planning to solve the refugee problem with this approach at the expense of the dim-witted Europeans. … Illegal work would be rampant, xenophobia would intensify, and the suffering of the migrants as well as their susceptibility to hatemongers and radical slogans would increase. And Erdoğan would laugh up his sleeve while the far-right parties move ever closer to power. He would no doubt be delighted to see what that does to Europe.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

EU making Turkey promises it can't keep

The planned agreement can't be implemented - particularly regarding visa-free travel for Turks - and will only further weaken the EU's credibility, the conservative paper The Daily Telegraph believes:

“To get visa-free access to Europe Turkey must meet 72 pre-set criteria - about half of which currently remain unmet, and which France and Spain in particular have made clear they have no intention of softening. There is, therefore, no immediate prospect of visa-free travel for 75m Turks and yet European leaders look set to sign a promise to make that happen, knowing full well that it is meaningless – just like that 'deal' to relocate 160,000 refugees around Europe. Nothing corrodes credibility and authority - whether of parents, teachers or the European Union and Mrs Merkel - as much as wilful, knowing meaninglessness.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Chancellor will get her way as usual

Criticism aside, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will push through her own position at the EU summit on the refugee crisis, the centre-left daily Der Standard believes:

“Somehow she has always been able to hold this crazy gaggle of 28 EU states with such contradictory interests together. ... At this latest EU-Turkey summit on the refugee crisis, the chancellor's position seems hopeless. She has played up to Turkey despite its violations of fundamental rights. And she's fallen out with almost all her partners because she refuses to state publicly that the unlimited flow of refugees to Germany is also a thing of the past. The EU and its states are taking all necessary measures to seal off the Union. Merkel is relishing the situation - and remaining silent.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

There won't be a deal

The deal won't go through because the Europeans can't trust Turkey, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore comments:

“Europe, its public opinion and the European Parliament don't seem willing to pay the price of capitulation and ignore rules and principles. The paradoxical result of backing out of the deal could be that the 28 European states reach an agreement at the summit. They may close ranks to present Ankara with a revised deal that would swiftly meet with rejection by the Turks. … The alternative for getting out of this dilemma without losing face would be to sign a joint declaration for a collaboration which one already knows won't work or will be poorly and inadequately implemented.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

No better solution in sight

There are few options but to push for a workable solution with Turkey, the liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht urges:

“The best alternative for Estonia would be for the agreement with Turkey to be a success. Because the re-establishment of internal borders that must be feared if the Turkey plan goes wrong would not be good news for us at all. Granted, the deal is risky and has many shortcoming, but a better solution to the crisis is nowhere in sight. And in any event there are fewer risks for us as most refugees want to go to Germany. ... The EU must send a convincing message: it makes no sense to come to Europe without official permission - because you'll automatically be sent back.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Merkel's moral imperative is irritating everyone

In a government statement on Wednesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to Europe's honour to find a solution to the refugee crisis. She lacks the necessary powers of persuasion, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung observes:

“Even if the states that have refused to take in refugees so far promised to cooperate after Merkel's appeal to their honour, it still wouldn't solve all the problems. … Merkel is right about one thing: the key question is how to reduce the number of refugees not just for some, but for all countries. There is still no consensus in the EU on this. The chancellor's powers of persuasiveness is still hampered by her Mother Teresa stance at the start of the crisis. As much as her concern about the EU's honour and compassion does her credit, Merkel's lecturing also serves as a reminder to her partners of Germany's own moral imperative.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Turkey critics just don't want deal

European criticism of the lack of democracy in Turkey is nothing more than blatant opportunism in the context of the refugee deal, the liberal paper Hürriyet Daily News contends:

“The morality of the deal is being questioned. How is it possible for the EU to strike a deal with an authoritarian government, many ask. How can European leaders ignore democratic backpedalling in Turkey at the expense of violating its own values, they say. That ship has long sailed, however. All of these opinion leaders have long ignored democratic backpedalling in Turkey. The only reason why they recall the authoritarian policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is because they simply don’t like the deal and with few exceptions, instead of coming up with alternative proposals, they target the democratic deficit in Turkey.”

More opinions

Libération (FR) / 16 March 2016
  Turks have the refugees to thank for opening Europe's door (in French)