EU-Turkey non-deal: snap analysis

Overnight the EU Summit failed to reach agreement with Turkey but the outline of the deal to be done on 17–18 March is clear. Here’s the bullet points from the Heads of State statement, together with my commentary. These are enumerated as “principles”.

Your head of state has signed up to them:

“to return all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands with the costs covered by the EU;”

… Not legal. If these “irregular migrants” claim asylum they are a refugee and protected from return under international law until their claim has been processed. It will be challenged in the courts immediately.

“to resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the EU Member States, within the framework of the existing commitments;”

…This presumably starts on implementation, and is not retrospective. It leaves around 30,000 refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, which is manageable. But it replaces law with arbitrary power. Who decides which refugees in Turkey get to come to Europe? Why not simply put the ones who want to leave Turkey for Europe on a bus or flight to Berlin, avoiding the peril of crossing to Lesbos, being sent back and then — presumably — joining an arbitrarily organised queue of people in Turkey?

The whole thing would be better organised through the #safepassage demanded by NGOs and will redouble calls for that.

“to accelerate the implementation of the visa liberalization roadmap with all Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016;”

…Not possible. One state can block it. Will David Cameron sign-off visa free travel for 75 million Turkish citizens to Britain 23 days before the Brexit referendum. Will Poland sign up? Will Cyprus? Dream on.

[its been pointed out since I wrote this that the visa free agreement is with Schengen only. But the agreement says “all member states” do I think my point is valid.]

“to speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated 3 billion euros to ensure funding of a first set of projects before the end of March and decide on additional funding for the Refugee Facility for Syrians”

…Remarkably, Erdogan has demanded exactly what he is shown demanding in the leaked Tusk-Erdogan notes, which I have doubted the veracity of. Nevertheless, €6bn would be cheap for Europe if it stemmed voluntarily the desire of people to leave camps in Turkey and come to Europe.

“to prepare for the decision on the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations as soon as possible, building on the October 2015 European Council conclusions”

…This is one of the most shameful commitments the EU has ever given. We should state, now, there is no possibility of Turkey joining the EU under the AK Party. In the leaked documents that’s what Erdogan says: put us out of our misery. Europe should, as I suggest in the Guardian, signal to the secular, democratic forces in Turkey that it will re-start accession talks only when there has been a stable democracy for, say, five years, with full commitments to human rights, press freedom etc honoured. We should have no truck with the Christian right who say Turkey cannot enter because it is muslim, or because it will flood Europe with cheap labour: the issue is democracy. Turkey cannot begin accession talks because it does not meet the Copenhagen criteria for membership, and is moving in the opposite direction. I think there will be outrage way beyond the Christian right in Europe over this, if it happens.

“to work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria which would allow for the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe”

…Is this a commitment to create a safe haven? Militarily? Via the Turkish military, which has been covertly supplying IS, and bombing the Kurds? If not, the onus on EU leaders is to say so sharpish because there is no consent in Europe for the creation of safe havens, welcome though they would be.

And that’s it. Nothing on human rights in the entire document; nothing about stop bombing the Kurds; nothing about stop jailing newspaper editors; no incentive to cease burning down the local offices of opposition parties.

The best that can be said is that the negotiations failed and that these are some kind of holding position to stop Erdogan pulling the trigger on another million refugees into the islands.

These bullet points, reflecting Turkey’s demands completely, will never be implemented because the EU leaders represent democracies, where international law applies and where entry into commitments — on visas, EU accession etc — is the subject of parliamentary debate. Get real.