Merkel-Davu­to­glu wheel­ing-deal­ing over refugee deal wrecks EU sum­mit

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The EU sum­mit which ended on Tues­day morn­ing failed to reach a deal with Turkey to stem the un­prece­dented mi­grant cri­sis, as many heads of state and govern­ment op­posed Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Merkel’s at­tempt to im­pose her own deal with Ankara.

Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu will re­turn to an­other EU sum­mit next week on March 17-18. A vast ma­jor­ity of the lead­ers present were re­ported to be frus­trated, even out­raged, by an at­tempt to sub­sti­tute EU de­ci­sion-mak­ing with a con­tro­ver­sial deal bro­kered by Ber­lin.

A diplo­mat from the Viseg­rad Four group spoke of “the big frus­tra­tion” of most of the EU heads of state present af­ter Merkel and Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte of the Nether­lands, which holds the cur­rent ro­tat­ing EU Coun­cil pres­i­dency, sub­sti­tuted the draft agree­ment crafted by the 28 am­bas­sadors with a deal they agreed on late on Sun­day, March 6, with Davu­to­glu. Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk was re­ported to be the most frus­trated of all.

In­deed, the EU am­bas­sadors had drafted a dec­la­ra­tion that was ex­pected to be adopted at the sum­mit on Mon­day. Euro­pean lead­ers were ex­pected to de­clare on Mon­day that they will “close the Balkans route in the com­ing days,” end­ing the “wave-through ap­proach” to refugees that has caused chaos and ten­sion in Europe.

But the tri­lat­eral pre-sum­mit meet­ing pro­duced a com­pletely dif­fer­ent text, ac­cord­ing to which Turkey would read­mit all mi­grants cross­ing into the Greek is­lands from its ter­ri­tory. For ev­ery Syr­ian read­mit­ted by Turkey from Greek is­lands, an­other Syr­ian will be re­set­tled from Turkey to the EU mem­ber states. This for­mula, called “one for one”, means that if NATO or an­other force in­ter­cepts a boat with, say, 50 peo­ple, among whom ten are Syr­ian, all of them will be res­cued and sent to Turkey. Then the EU will be ob­li­gated to take ten Syr­i­ans (not the same peo­ple, though) from Turkey and send them by plane to EU coun­tries.

In ex­change, the EU would com­mit to cover the costs of the read­mis­sion process, pay an ad­di­tional EUR 3 bil­lion for refugees in Turkey liv­ing out­side the camps, speed up lift­ing the visa re­quire­ment for Turk­ish na­tion­als by June of this year, open five ne­go­ti­a­tion chap­ters in Turkey’s EU ac­ces­sion bid and re­set­tle Syr­i­ans from Turkey to EU coun­tries un­der the “one for one” for­mula.

Ar­ti­cle 19 of the Char­ter of Fun­da­men­tal Rights of the Euro­pean Union (2000) says that “Col­lec­tive ex­pul­sions are for­bid­den.” The UN Con­ven­tion on refugees from 1951 pro­hibits con­tract­ing par­ties (all EU mem­ber states are con­tract­ing par­ties) from ex­pelling or re­turn­ing (push­ing back) refugees, ex­cept on grounds of pub­lic or­der.

Asked about the le­gal ba­sis of such a de facto push-back of refugees, a diplo­mat said that they would not be pushed back, but saved.

The au­thor of the plan is Davu­to­glu, but Merkel em­braced it com­pletely, call­ing the deal “a break­through if it’s im­ple­mented”.

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the sum­mit, Merkel ac­knowl­edged that.

“I have to say hon­estly we wel­comed [Davu­to­glu’s pro­posal], bet­ter to make the pro­posal now than not to make it at all,” Merkel said, though she ac­knowl­edged the last minute change made ne­go­ti­a­tions tough.

The spokesper­son of the Hun­gar­ian govern­ment tweeted that Prime Min­siter Vic­tor Or­ban had ve­toed the plan to re­set­tle asy­lum seek­ers di­rectly from Turkey to EU coun­tries.

But later di­plo­mats said there was no need for a veto from any in­di­vid­ual coun­try be­cause many coun­tries op­posed the pro­posal.

Ger­many re­port­edly had no prob­lems ac­cept­ing to pay its share from the ad­di­tional amount of EUR 3 bil­lion. But other coun­tries were re­luc­tant to com­mit more funds to Turkey, in part be­cause the num­ber of mi­grants ar­riv­ing on the Greek is­lands has so far not de­creased.

The sum­mit broke out into over three hours of bi­lat­eral con­sul­ta­tions. A state­ment was adopted fol­low­ing the talks, ac­cord­ing to which EU lead­ers agreed to work on the ba­sis of Turkey’s pro­pos­als. Tusk will con­tinue the process ahead of the next sum­mit.

One of the state­ment’s texts says that the doc­u­ment does not give mem­ber states any new com­mit­ments con­cern­ing re­lo­ca­tion and re­set­tle­ment. How­ever, if the for­mula “one for one” is adopted, this nec­es­sar­ily means that Syr­i­ans would be re­set­tled to EU coun­tries from Turkey.

Speak­ing to the press, Davu­to­glu said that Turkey was not de­mand­ing money, but fair bur­den shar­ing. Not a sin­gle cent would be spent for Turk­ish cit­i­zens, the EUR 3 bil­lion will be for refugees only, he stressed.

Merkel is un­der stiff pres­sure ahead Ger­man re­gional elec­tions this Sun­day.

On March 13, Ger­many will hold an elec­tion in three of its 16 states: Sax­onyAn­halt, Rhein­land-Pfalz and BadenWürt­tem­berg.

Merkel is also still reel­ing from big wins for the right-wing party Al­ter­na­tive für Deutsch­land—which has sharply crit­i­cised Merkel’s mi­gra­tion pol­icy—in the Hesse state elec­tion last Sun­day (March 6).

The vote is seen as a first elec­toral test of Merkel’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, as it is ex­pected to mea­sure con­fi­dence in her CDU party and the up­surge of anti-im­mi­gra­tion sen­ti­ment in Ger­man so­ci­ety.

“There is no con­sid­er­a­tion what­so­ever for na­tional political ap­point­ments,” Merkel said of the up­com­ing elec­tions.

“There were elec­tions else­where,” she added. In elec­tions turned to dis­ap­point­ment for the Robert Fico.

Merkel de­clared “to­day was a good day but there is still work left un­til March 18”.

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