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New migration plans are needed as Turkey starts questioning the deal it has concluded with the EU

Today’s European media outlets continue to provide a wide coverage on the multidimensional aspects of the migration crisis. First, some confirm that some 300 migrants had died at sea last Saturday in the sinking of their boat connecting Alexandria to Italy. Le Figaro’s Richard Heuzé notes that it seems to be a new migration route since the Balkans’s one is closed, causing growing pressure on Italy whose government fears an aggravation of the situation due to the closure of the Brenner Pass.

The risk is high that 2016 will be a year in which many more people die trying to cross the Mediterranean, suggests Olle Lönnaeus in an analysis piece for Landskrona Posten. Since the beginning of the year, nearly 25,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea; or 55% more than last year. On the other hand, Frontex said in a statement that there was a noticeable reduction in the number of migrants arriving to Greece, notes.

Speaking at a summit of EU Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers on Monday, EU High Representative and EC Vice-President Federica Mogherini said that the naval operation Enavfor Med/Sophia to combat people trafficking can draw a positive balance of the last six months, Sole 24 Ore notes. However, it is clear that the plan failed, the Italian newspaper says. Thomas Mayer even writes in a commentary in Der Standard that the refugee crisis is closely linked to the foreign policy weakness of the EU. To face with this resurgence of refugees’ arrivals in Italy, PM Matteo Renzi calls on Europe to act, presenting its “Migration Compact” aiming at providing financial assistance to countries of departure. Its proposal received a good welcoming from the European Commission, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has opposed the measure providing for the issuance of European loans for the countries of departure. 

For his part, in an interview with Corriere della Sera, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder comments that Matteo Renzi’s project for a common EU strategy towards North Africa goes in the right direction, adding that he was not against financing the strategy using Eurobonds. In his commentary for Corriere della Sera, Enzo Moavero Milanesi argues that EU national governments are“disunited” in reacting to the impact of migration due to a general lack of confidence inside the Union. Unnamed members of President Juncker’s staff unofficially ensured the Italian government that the European Commission will present a proposal on migration, responding to Italy’s “Migration Compact” in the coming months,La Repubblica’s Alberto D’Argenio reports.

In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Italian Ministry of the Interior Domenico Manzione criticises Eastern European member states for their lack of solidary and says that “Europe principles are not defended by building walls but through humane policy”. EC Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič however said that there was a maximum commitment of European leaders and institutions to maintain the Schengen system, writes. Meanwhile, the European Commission said it will allocate €83 million in humanitarian aid to Greece to improve conditions in refugee camps, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Christos Stylianides announced, reports.

The Commission underlines its will to restore dignified living conditions for refugees and migrants in Europe as swiftly as possible. The money is expected to be directed to the humanitarian organisations which will cooperate with the Greek government to offer assistance to refugees. The cooperation agreement organising this aid mechanism was signed by Commissioner Stylianides, Greek Alternate Minister Giannis Mouzalas and 6 NGOs, ERT1 says. Bursa adds that the European Commission will give Greece a humanitarian aid worth €700 million until 2018. Since neighbouring countries decided to close their borders in February, nearly 50,000 people are trapped in Greece, Financieele Dagblad writes. Moreover, the European Commission announced the granting of €110 million aid to Turkey in the framework of the EU-Turkey agreement, Kathimerini notes. The resources will come from the €3 billion aid fund that the EU promised to Turkey in exchange of its cooperation to tackle irregular immigration in Europe, reports. Regarding another potential partnership, Luxemburger Wort reports that Libya has become a key country for the EU, which is envisaging an approach similar to the deal with Turkey. Amid those new announcements, some media emphasise that Turkey is starting to question the deal it has concluded with the EU on migration. Arte notes that Turkish Prime Minister, visiting the Council of Europe, has increased pressure on the Europeans saying that if the visa issue is not resolved as the earliest, i.e. June as reported by some media, Ankara could stop meeting the terms of the agreement. President Erdoğan even went further stating that the EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the EU, Magyar Hírlap reports. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker nevertheless said Turkey must meet all criteria for visa-free travel with European adding that “the criteria will not be watered down in the case of Turkey”, Capital Daily writes, while Tg la 7 quoted him as saying that no threats are necessary. Moreover, the European Commission added that Turkish authorities have abided by 19 out of the 72 criteria that are requested, Rai News 24 says. “Turkey must fulfill all remaining conditions”, Juncker told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Mail Online notes.

The EU particularly demands that Turkey respects human rights, Sole 24 Ore writes. In his commentary for Právo daily, MEP Jan Keller stated that right from the start it was clear that Turkey was going to get an unprecedented opportunity to blackmail Europe. In a commentary in Sole 24 Ore, Vittorio Da Rold argues that, given Mr Erdoğan’s and Mr Davutoglu’s arrogance, the EU should make it clear that rights are not negotiable. For his part, La Libre Belgique’s Olivier le Bussy writes that with the EU-Turkey deal, the EU has sold off its values and principles. Finally, recalls that the college of Commissioners is expected to adopt today the first report on the implementation of the 18 March EU-Turkey refugee agreement, as announced by Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas.


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