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Migration Policy Watch 19th May 2016

DIGEST

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT HAS NOT SUPPORTED VISA-FREE REGIME FOR TURKEY: The fractions’ chairmen have stopped the European parliament proceedings on the European Commission’s proposal on lifting visa obligation for Turkish citizens. Furthermore, at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg last week majority of the MEPs has not supported the proposition. According to the chairman of the European Parliament Martin Schulz the works of the Parliament will carry on only after Turkey fulfils all of the 72 conditions (while 5 are still yet to be done, the anti-terrorist law is currently in the talks). According to some of the reactions the Parliament is thus trying to increase its relevance. The proposition of the Commission ought to be approved by the EU Council and the European Parliament within the so-called co-decision framework.

EU SEEKS PLAN B FOR THE MIGRATION CRISIS, WITHOUT TURKEY: While Turkey would not further stop the refugees from continuing to Europe anymore and would send back those refugees returning from Europe according to the Turkish president Erdogan if the EU did not cancel the visa obligation to Turkish citizens for the short term journey, the chairman of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has already stated in Berlin that the agreement between EU and Turkey would come to its end if Ankara were not fulfilling its commitments, including the commitments to reach the visa liberation (the last 5 chapters from the remaining 72). The potential “Plan B”, in case the EU-Turkey coordination fails, seeks keeping the refugees on the Greek islands and stopping their transport to the mainland. The rejected asylum applicants would then be returned straight from the Greek islands back to the country of origin.

PLAN FOR AFRICA: The German chancellor Angela Merkel and the Union’s leaders have supported the Italian „Plan for Africa“. The country is developing such a plan to limit the migration flows from the North Africa because of the fears of the strengthening of the migration flows from Libya to Italy will occur again. The Italian plan is more of an outline for a long-term strategy to resolve the situation both in the EU and the third countries. According to information from several stakeholders the country is better prepared for the risen migration flow than Greece. The Italian plan involves:

  • Focusing on the causes of the economic migration (improvement of the economic situation in the third countries through the investment);
  • EU support in securing safety in the third countries;
  • Widening options for legal migration and extending resettlement programs.

On the return the EU would ask for protection of borders of countries of transit and origin and active decreasing and preventing from the arising migration flows to Europe. EU should next demand creating the areas (similar to hotspots that were created in Greece and Italy) where the classifying of the refugees and economic migrants would occur. These areas would further involve receptions capacities for refugees financed by the EU. The Italian PM Matteo Renzi aims to introduce the plan to be discussed on the European Council in the 28th and 29th June.

PARTIAL BORDER PROTECTION WITHIN THE SCHENGEN AREA PROLOGNED: On the 12th May the Council adopted a proposal of the European Commission to prolong proportionate controls at certain internal Schengen borders in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway (as an associated state to the Schengen area) for another 6 months. The Commission had reacted to a demand, made by those states because of expiring legal protection of the internal borders, to prolong internal border controls to secure the public order and internal security. At the same time the Commission itself had proposed a recommendation for such prolonging of the measures on the basis of the Article 29 (formerly 26) of the Schengen Border Code as Greece has not been fulfilling protection of its external border sufficiently yet. The aim to coordinate and keep the states behaviour in line with European law and the final objective is to lift all internal border controls and return to a normally functioning Schengen area by the end of 2016, in line with the ” Back to Schengen” Roadmap .

OUR COMMENTARY

“The EU-Turkey cooperation has been very complicated since start. Relations between the EU and Turkey had been ambiguous for decades and the negotiations on the cooperation on the migration crisis itself stand on a problematic “showdown” basis. The fact that the agreement stands only on the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan from October 2015 and a EU-Turkey Joint statement from March 2016 – and is thus not legally binding – provides a manoeuvring space for both sides. Thus fulfilment of such cooperation comes from credibility of this partnership. In our opinion, it is a question of time when the agreement will fall apart.

The national governments and the EU are seeking options to make the concessionmore politically palatable, including safeguards, extra conditions or watered-down terms, as well as a broad emergency brake, allowing the EU to suspend the visa-free regime deal (which will be on the Agenda of the upcoming Justice and Home Affairs Council on Friday 20th May) stricter checks or limitations of the visa-free regime to Turkish executives and students. The Commission has introduced legislative proposal for visa liberalisation for Turkey with the knowledge that MEPs will not most likely approve the lifting of visa obligation. However, the visa liberation is indeed the only reward for Turkey that EU has to offer in such a short-term urgency.

In order not to make the agreement fail, the EU does not reject the visa liberation while negotiating but insists on fulfilling all of the conditions, including the biometric passports (one has to say that in the year 2016 96 % of the Schengen visa applications made in Turkeywere accepted leading to visas to be issued – even without the biometric passport, and that only 7,5 mil Turks owns any passport at all). Both EU and Turkey have admitted that introducing the visa liberation will not be likely by then end of June, Turkeystarted to talk about October.

The EU-Turkey cooperation is insecure and that’s why the EU should benefit from this potential additional time to quickly build an alternative, that would regulate the migration flows to EU without Turkey . If the European leadership noticeably yielded the pressure of the authoritarian Turkish regime, it would be labelled as weak by far-rights. As a result, right such populistic movements would gain more political support.

The EU should not waste the political capital while discussing the relocations of the asylum applicants among the EU countries (the Dublin reform) that seems as veryinefficient so far. What’s more, the discussion will have a negative impact on the EU cohesion as several Member States are rejecting the permanent distribution mechanism of the asylum applicants. The EU should focus on those measures that are in the mutual agreement across the EU. The aim should be creation of an efficient external border protection plan (including creation of the European Border and Coast Guard), the aid to the Syria’s neighbouring region should be extended, a massive information campaign for the refugees themselves should be led and the intended abusing of the EU asylum system should be strictly punished. The EU should further focus on managing the situation in both transit and origin countries (as it happens for example by possible negotiation with Nigeriaand Niger). The EU’s capacity to have the alternate option and to play for its interests – according to the best consciousness and awareness – is not only important for the managing the migration flows to EU but for the talks with the third countries as well. That being not only with Turkey, but also with the North African countries where the EU has to focus its attention as well.”

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