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Slovenia, Serbia and Macedonia close route to migrants amid EP criticism of EU-Turkey deal

Within hours of the EU announcement of an agreement with Turkey to slow the flow of migrants, Slovenia and Serbia announced new restrictions on the entry of migrants, the INYT reports. The Daily Telegraph adds that FYROM fully sealed its border with Greece yesterday, closing down the Balkan route used by more than a million migrants to reach Western Europe. The European Commission is now bracing itself for the migrant train to fragment into new routes through Albania and Bulgaria, a spokesman said. It has also emerged that the EU is looking to reach an agreement with Russia as it fears people will now enter Europe by crossing the country into Finland.

According to minutes from a meeting last month, the EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, “referred to the growing migratory pressure faced by Finland on its border with Russia, and supported the idea of establishing a dialogue on migration with the Russian Federation as soon as possible”. Meanwhile, The FT‘s Tony Barber warns that the EU’s focus on Turkey could see it forget the challenges it faces in North Africa as a source of illegal migration into Europe.

In other news, MEPs, personalities and journalists continue to comment on the EU-Turkey summit. El Pais, ABC and De Standaard report that the EU-Turkey migration deal has been heavily criticised in the European Parliament, as all groups shared their concerns. La Libre Belgique notes the two biggest groups, the EPP and S&D, rejoiced that an agreement was reached. However, this did not prevent them from raising several questions. De Standaard quotes Philippe Lamberts MEP who is angry about the plan, calling it a “moral failure.” L’Echo adds that no liberal MEP defended the agreement.Writing in the Guardian, Guy Verhofstadt MEP describes the EU’s deal with Turkey as “illegal and betraying European values”. He warns that rather than trying to devise a strategy to protect those fleeing the Syrian civil war, EU politicians are obsessed with coming up with a way of “stemming the flow”.

In an interview with Le Monde, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is critical of Europe’s “great absence” in the refugee crisis, saying that “100% of our diplomatic efforts” must be dedicated to solving the Syrian crisis. An agreement with Ankara is “essential but not under any condition” he noted, calling the agreement “akin to blackmail”. In more positive comments, Federal Minister for Development Gerd Müller says in an interview with Münchener Merkur the EU summit was an important step in reaching cooperation with Turkey, but he doubts that the strategy of keeping refugees in Turkey in exchange for easing visa rules will work.

In an interview with Die Welt, Federal Minister for Special Affairs Peter Altmaier calls the EU summit a “turning point,” predicting that cooperation with Turkey will soon shut down smuggling operations. Mr Altmaier says he is not blind to the human rights issues in Turkey. However, there is a geostrategic need for cooperation with the country. In an interview with Público, Greek Minister Assistant for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis says that the Turkey-EU agreement will end illegal routes for refugees and create legal and safe ones, despite some legal problems.

Meanwhile, Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu denied that Turkey is begging for money in an interview with Haberturk. Çavuşoğlu stated that the funds would be used for Syrians. Among comments from journalists, Arnaud Leparmentier backs the EU’s agreement with Turkey in a commentary in Le Monde. This policy has both an economic and a moral price; yet it is the first time that the EU has a coherent plan to tackle the migrant crisis, thus curbing the rise of populist movements all over Europe.

In more sceptical comments, Hans-Peter Siebenhaar writes in Handelsblatt that while the closing of the Balkan border has provided a moment of respite for Germany, migrants will soon find other ways to come to Europe. An agreement with Turkey is needed now more than ever, and he calls for a real solution at the next EU summit. In negative comments, The Sun‘s Rod Liddle argues that the EU-Turkey deal has made the migration crisis worse, opening up Europe to 80 million Turks and handing over billions of euros to Turkey to implement this “ludicrous scheme”. An editorial in the Daily Express argues that the EU-Turkey deal shows the impossibility of the UK being able to control migration if it remains in the EU. The new deal has actually increased by 77 million people the number who will be able to travel freely to Britain. It says the only way to control migration is to leave the EU.

 

©europeanunion2016

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