Copenhagen aims for EU-Turkey agreement by end June
By Nathalie Vandystadt | Wednesday 13 June 2012
The Danish EU Presidency is confident. It hopes to see its EU partners adopt Council conclusions that could unlock an agreement on the readmission of illegal migrants entering the EU through Turkey. Ankara has so far refused to sign the text in the absence of visa liberalisation guarantees for its citizens. With Copenhagen wrapping up its EU Presidency at the end of June, its goal is to be able to present conclusions to Ankara before then and to seal the agreement.
The subject was not addressed in detail at the Home Affairs Council, on 7 June in Luxembourg, but the draft conclusions are already in the hands of the capitals. It is believed that the matter will be discussed at three or four meetings of the 27 ambassadors. An agreement is therefore possible in the coming days.
The aim is to spell out what each party must do. Ankara has to sign a readmission agreement with the EU, on which the parties agreed, in February 2011, and comply with existing bilateral agreements, with Greece among others. The EU has to launch a dialogue on visas with a view to liberalisation. Four states reject “precondition”.
According to information obtained by the French news agency
AFP, four EU states – Cyprus, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands – reject this precondition. In February 2011, Cyprus, which is preparing to take up the EU Presidency in July, declared that it had to be clear that “the readmission agreement does not commit the EU to a dialogue on visa facilitation or liberalisation”.
The EU needs this agreement more than ever as Greece, destabilised by its budget crisis, is inundated by migrants who cross its border with Turkey. The situation is not likely to be any better in 2013. “The border between Greece and Turkey will remain a crossing point for illegal migrants in 2013 with interception levels similar to those in 2011, ie between 40,000 and 57,000 a year,” notes Frontex, the EU agency that manages cooperation on surveillance of the EU’s external borders. This situation, it continues, is due to the Turkish government’s visa policy and the development of Turkish airline routes.
Until recently, the bulk of potential immigrants aiming to enter Europe crossed the Mediterranean aboard makeshift boats. But illegal immigration networks operating through Turkey are now highly structured. Low-cost flights are organised from different cities in Africa to Istanbul. “Migratory flows to France no longer cross the Mediterranean. The route taken by immigrants from Northern Africa and countries South of the Sahel now goes through Istanbul, then Greece,” warned, in April, then French Home Affairs Minister Claude Guéant. Greece has asked the EU to pressure Turkey to abide by its commitments in the bilateral agreements and in the new agreement with the EU.