Saving the Schengen zone: Turkey to the rescue!

Since early September the EU and Turkey have been engaged in talks related to the Syrian refugee crisis following a massive increase in refugees, principally from Syria but also from Iraq and elsewhere, arriving on the EUand’s shores which the EU does not want.
By the end of this year Germany, which has been the main destination for many refugees, is expected to receive some 800,000 asylum applications. On Nov. 12, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, warned that the Schengen open borders accord was on the brink of collapse as a result of the crisis. According to Tusk, saving Schengen is and”a race against time.andquot
Sweden has become the latest EU member state to announce new border controls, joining Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovenia. Being the main transit state, Turkey is the EUand’s key to a solution and the union has been ready to offer Turkey almost anything to have Ankara play ball and keep the majority of the refugees. This has included holding back Turkeyand’s annual Progress Report — which was highly critical of the government in many areas — until after the Nov. 1 parliamentary election, which was a particularly unprofessional and unprincipled act on the side of the EU. In fact, I find the lack of international solidarity and lack of readiness to fairly share the burden very said indeed.
Turkey is now the worldand’s largest recipient of refugees and the third or fourth largest recipient of asylum requests. Turkey is host to at least 2.5 million refugees, which has apparently cost the state over $8 billion. While some 270,000 of the refugees live in the 25 refugee camps that Turkey has set up, the rest live in urban centers, with the majority having a very tough life indeed. And these are just the registered refugees. There could be as many as another 1 million which are not registered and it is likely that it is these non-registered refugees who make up the majority of those trying to get to Europe.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not been shy in criticizing the EU. He has blamed European countries for abandoning Syrian refugees to their fate by and”shutting their doors to themand” and and”letting them drown in the Aegean and in the Mediterranean.and” Indeed, the failure of the international community to do its part in resettling refugees has increased Syrian reliance on human smugglers.
At the end of last week the two partners moved another step forward towards signing an action plan for the refugee crisis following a meeting between Turkish and EU officials in Ankara on Nov. 11. If all goes to plan, the EU will be left only having to deal with a tiny percentage of refugees while Turkey will keep the bulk and possibly many more depending on developments in Syria. In return Turkey will get a sped-up visa liberalization process, financial assistance, and a reinvigorated EU accession process, among other things. Turkey will have to start implement a readmission agreement for migrants. The agreement will include short- and long-term measures that should be implemented.
Before the agreement can move ahead, it needs to get the seal of approval from all 28 EU member states. Hence the vice president of the European Commission, Franz Timmermans, will present a report to the EU heads of state at the forthcoming EU Council meeting in December, where unanimous approval will be sought. Given the urgency of the issue, it is likely to get a quick stamp of approval because delaying it would mean the possible arrival of even more refugees to Europe.
Erdogan is due to meet with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit. There are plans for a special Turkey-EU Summit in either late November or early December on the same issue. Unfortunately, an end to the refugee crisis will only come when there is a solution to the Syrian civil war, and that does not seem imminent. I also hope that during the discussion Juncker will also raise the worsening situation in Turkey as regards the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms and in particular regarding freedom of the media, including recent raids on newspaper groups and the much talked about expected seizure of this paper and others in the media.


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