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Brussels-Ankara negotiations still at the centre of Europe’s attention

Over the weekend, the press continued to provide comments on the migration crisis and, more specifically, on the EU-Turkey talks, as the agreement discussed last Monday needs to be endorsed by the European Council on Friday, note, among others, La Sexta, Politiken and Standart Daily. Without Turkey, there currently is no solution for the refugee crisis on the Western Balkans route, stated Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn, reports ö1.

The EU needs Turkey but the opposite holds true as well, Mr Hahn further stressed. To him, the conflict in Syria, the unstable Middle East, the conflict between Turkey and Russia, all make the EU an important partner for Turkey. The relationship between the EU and Turkey shall therefore now be based on a new and more trusting foundation, starting with the resumption of EU accession negotiations, he added. Invited on BFM TV, MEP Rachida Dati considers, along the same lines, we must first “deal with the cause” of immigration, i.e. the Syrian conflict. She believes that there is no other option for solving both war in Syria and migratory waves than to reach a deal with Russia and Syria’s government on the first matter, and with Ankara regarding the second.

Ms Dati considers that Turkey “is essential to Europe in security terms” and suggests a “transitory” agreement between Brussels and Ankara. Tomáš Lindner stresses, in a column for weekly Respekt, that the EU cooperation with Turkey is risky but goes in the right direction. He believes that Europe probably does not have a better alternative to that cooperation. To him, if the plan works, the Schengen Area will survive and the EU can continue solving other aspects of the crisis. Lithuania will allocate Turkey €5 million for solving the migrant crisis, notes FM 99.

Most of the commentaries however still express concerns about the EU’s policy. The WSJE’s Simon Nixon believes that the controversial deal faces obstacles over its legality, namely Turkey’s demands on visa restrictions and what to do with the migrants already in Greece. “The challenge then will be to ensure that what is agreed upon is actually delivered,” Mr Nixon underlines, adding however that “the lesson of past EU crises is that even a successful deal will likely only buy time – in this case, until the smugglers figure out a new way into Europe.”

Cumhuriyet’s Ergin Yıldızoğlu wonders how Turkey with 9,000 dollars income per person can overcome a crisis while the EU is not able to do it with 27,000 dollars income per person. In an interview with Le Monde, Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri hopes that Turkey will cease to be the “highway to Europe”. He urges the country to monitor its borders and to sign bilateral agreements to send back migrants to their home countries. In a rhetorical question referring to the Brussels-Ankara talks, Dominique Moïsi wonders, in his column for Les Echos how it is possible to “negotiate with any chance of success” when our “interlocutor perfectly knows” that we have “no choice.” He considers that the refugee crisis “is currently representing the worst indicators and accelerators” of the European continent’s “weaknesses.” “Europe is trapped in a doomsday machine that it has created itself due to egoism…and fear,” he adds.

The idea of “externalising Europe’s responsibilities is even more alarming” faced with a Turkey that does not respect democracy or human rights, adds Mr Moïsi. Along the same lines, Professor Pedro Lourtie writes in Diário Económico that Europe seems only interested in stopping the influx of refugees and is willing to ignore the human rights problems in Turkey. In fact, the EU’s policy is the consequence of a widespread lack of solidarity, Mr Lourtie points out; a point of view shared by Dalibor Roháč in a commentary for weekly Týždeň and Joachim Benke in a Spiegel online opinion piece.

The chaos in the EU asylum policy proves that the plan for a “United States of Europe” has been an illusion, argues Rosemarie Schwaiger in an essay for Profil magazine. She raises the question, however, of whether a federation can only work if states work more closely together. In related news, France Info says that women migrating to Europe are often victims of rapes and aggressions. European Parliament Vice-President Sylvie Guillaume calls for the gender dimension to better taking into account in asylum policy. “Special attention for migrant women must take place at all stages during their journey,” via, for instance, “the implementation of single-sex dormitories,” stated Ms Guillaume.

In other migration-related news, Politis and report that Greek PM Alexis Tsipras met Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Christos Stylianides on Friday. Mr Tsipras stated that the Greek state, despite the financial difficulties, has managed to increase its hosting capacities. The European Commission is helping tackle the refugee crisis, Commissioner Stylianides underlined, adds that Greek website. In an interview with Luxembourgian RTL, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sent a clear message that the external borders of the EU are not the borders of one country, but the borders of all of Europe, as reported by

“We must help Greece and other countries. We cannot leave them on their own”, President Juncker added. Meanwhile, Greece’s newly-appointed migration co-ordinator Dimitris Vitsas told The FT that the 47,000-strong migrant backlog in Greece is growing rapidly and could ultimately take two years to clear. Media from Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland and Hungary, among others, also report on the Balkan countries’ situation. Meanwhile, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt gave an interview to VTM Nieuws, in which he stressed that European leaders have to be reminded all the time that the solution to the refugee crisis can only be European. He advocated the rapid implementation of a European border and coast guard, which is actually possible as the European Commission made a proposal that has been discussed for four months by the European Foreign Affairs Ministers.



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