Migration crisis update: What are the chances of a fair deal at this EU Summit?

Anastasiades Merkel EU Summit_

Meeting of Heads of State or Government of the EU and Turkey. From left to right: Ms Angela MERKEL, German Federal Chancellor; Mr Mark RUTTE, Dutch Prime Minister; Mr Nicos ANASTASIADES, President of Cyprus. (EU Council Newsroom, 07/03/2016)

Everyone in Europe is putting all his money for the migration crisis ‘gamble’ on the EU-Turkey summit taking place this week on March 17-18 in Brussels. The 28 EU leaders had a bit more than a week now since the last summit to evaluate the proposals of the Turkish side and return to the table of negotiations in order to make a deal that could possibly lead to a viable solution for the migration problem.

The horrible conditions that the migrants are living in the Greek northern borders with FYROM, which remain closed, form only a small picture of how this crisis is deforming Europe and is putting the whole edifice into unprecedented risk.

Thus, last week’s proposals of the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have to be agreed by all EU leaders in order to reach a deal. Cyprus though has declared that is not going to support a deal which includes the continuation of membership talks with Turkey unless the latter has not first fulfilled its obligations.

The financial aid that the European Commission announced yesterday to support the crisis in Syria includes also Turkey and is coming just a couple of days before one of the most crucial summits on migration crisis.

Migrants trapped in Greece

Thousands of refugees are still trapped in Greece waiting for the borders with FYROM to open in order to continue their trip and reach a northern country which could provide them with better living conditions compared to the ones in their home country.

The recent attempt of about 1.500 migrants to cross the Greece-FYROM borders reveals how critical the situation is. The refugees living at the camp near Idomeni, a Greek village near the borders with FYROM, being desperate and without hope were misled by a flyer written by smugglers or volunteers, instructing them to cross the borders via the river. But the latter had as a result to lead to the death of three people while the rest of the migrants were forced violently to return back to Greece.

Cyprus against an EU-Turkey deal

Nikos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, warned yesterday that Cyprus will not lift its veto on the membership of Turkey in the EU unless Cyprus is recognized as a sovereign state. More specifically, Mr Anastasiades said to the president of the European Council. when Donald Tusk had visited Nicosia: “The Republic of Cyprus does not intend to consent to the opening of any chapters, if Turkey does not fulfil its obligations as described in the Negotiating Framework  and the Ankara Protocol.”

Nevertheless, Cyprus is not the only member state which is opposed to the Turkish EU membership. Milos Zeman, president of Czech Republic, said that Turkey is “blackmailing” Europe when demanding for more money to slow down the flow of migrants. Furthermore, Manuel Valls, prime minister of France, stated that France will pursue an effective cooperation with Turkey but will not accept being blackmailed.

Hence, there are many obstacles against reaching a deal in the next summit and it is quite certain that hard negotiations will be held by both sides.

Turkey receives financial aid just before the summit

The European Commission (EC) decided that it is the right moment now to tactically announce a humanitarian package of 445 million euros to deal with the Syrian crisis in 2016, just two days before the beginning of the EU summit where the member states will negotiate with Turkey for a possible migration deal.

Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian aid & Crisis Management said: “The European Union is committed to supporting the Syrian people, for as long as it takes. Today’s funding will support the most vulnerable Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. We need more unconditional humanitarian access now, more than ever to build on the recent efforts during the Cessation of hostilities in the country.”

This funding will help solve critical needs for food, health, water, sanitation, hygiene and education. Turkey will receive most of this support by absorbing 165 million euros. The announcement of such an action at this specific time is most likely a move of good will from the EU side.

What is more, the EC has announced that the change on the Dublin regulations regarding the current asylum system will be discussed now but reformed in April, having been persuaded by the EU leaders to postpone the modifications post the EU-Turkey summit.

All in all, the EU leaders will have a very intense two-day negotiation in Brussels this week where not only they will have to come up with a fair EU agreement but also persuade Turkey to accept it, in order to apply a viable solution to the migration crisis. Something like this though seems too difficult to happen when there are too many serious obstacles, just one day before the summit.

Germany, as the undeniable driving force of the Europe, is expected to lead again this summit and try to ‘save the day’ by pursuing a common beneficial agreement for the EU and for the refugees, who are thrown by Europe into horrible and cruel living conditions, with firmly closed European borders and Turkish smugglers exploiting them.

In short, who would ever believe that the European idea would shatter in pieces, while Brussels would outsource the solution to its existential problem to a 80 million muslim country, where journalists and bloggers go to jail for speaking freely their mind.

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