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  Refugee deal with Ankara

  16 Debates

A crisis meeting in Brussels on Monday between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel ended without concrete results. A meeting in Istanbul between Erdoğan, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel has been scheduled for next week. The three leaders will discuss the fate of the refugees gathered at the Turkish-Greek border and the situation in Syria. Both Ankara and the EU are taken to task in press commentaries.

Greek authorities have registered a substantial increase in the number of refugees arriving in the islands of the Aegean Sea over the last few weeks. Turkey's President Erdoğan has now threatened to let more people flee across the Mediterranean into Europe unless the EU supports his plan to set up a "safe zone" in the north-west of Syria. Can the refugee deal with Ankara still be saved?

A year after coming into force the refugee agreement between the EU and Turkey is once more in the media spotlight. Journalists discuss what the deal has achieved and describe Europe's asylum policy as inhumane.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov has complained in an interview that his country has been left to protect the EU's external border on its own. The government fears a rise in refugee numbers should the EU's deal with Turkey collapse. Some commentators share its fears, while others criticise Bulgaria for trying to capitalise on the refugee crisis.

Ankara has repeatedly threatened to ditch the refugee deal with the EU if Turks are not granted visa-free travel by October. The beginning of August already saw Turkish officials responsible for repatriating refugees being called back from Greece. For the EU the deal is neither politically desirable nor necessary in practical terms, commentators conclude.

President Erdoğan has proposed a referendum in which Turks vote on whether to join the EU. He accused the Union of failing to keep the promises it made with the refugee deal. Former French president Sarkozy tweeted on the weekend that Turkish membership was unthinkable. Who is to blame for the pessimistic mood?

The EU Parliament is only willing to discuss easing visa restrictions for Turks once Ankara has fulfilled all its criteria. Turkish President Erdoğan has so far refused to change his country's anti-terrorism laws, which according to Brussels contravene European constitutional standards. Should Europe maintain its tough stance vis-à-vis Erdoğan?

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has called on the EU to fulfil its promise of visa-free travel for Turks as early as June, stressing that otherwise Turkey couldn't be expected to fulfil its obligations vis-à-vis the EU. Will the EU let itself be blackmailed by Turkey because of the 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.

The agreement between the EU and Ankara according to which refugees who travelled illegally from Turkey to the EU can be sent back there has been in place since Sunday. Nonetheless hundreds of migrants are still crossing the sea to Greece every day. The deal could put an end to the uncontrolled flood of migrants to Europe, some commentators say. Others believe migrants will simply look for alternative routes.

The EU border protection agency Frontex has begun implementing the EU-Turkey deal and deporting refugees from Greece to Turkey. Human rights organisations are highly critical of the operation. What will be the price of resolving the refugee crisis?

The EU and Turkey have agreed on an action plan for reducing the number of refugees arriving in the EU. Ankara is to improve its border control measures and in return the country will be declared a safe country of origin. The deal is a farce in view of all the human rights violations committed in Turkey, some commentators argue. Others lament that a common asylum policy is still a distant goal for the EU.

In exchange for stepped-up border protection, the EU has offered Ankara to open a new chapter in its accession negotiations. Turkey is still a long way from fulfilling the requirements for EU membership, some commentators argue. Others see the offer as the only way to save the Schengen Agreement.

The Dutch government has presented a plan to drastically reduce refugee numbers. It proposes ferrying refugees who arrive in Greece by boat straight back to Turkey. In return EU member states would take in 250,000 refugees residing in Turkey per year. The initiative meets with a mixed response in the press.

Turkey has proposed taking back migrants from Greece in exchange for additional funds for supporting the refugees as well as accelerated EU membership negotiations. Paris and Vienna have spoken out against the deal. Will the EU go along with Ankara's plan?