Slovenian FM: EU-Turkey refugee deal should continue
SLOVENIAN Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec said Thursday the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees should continue in order to prevent a possible migration wave into the western Balkans.
Erjavec made the comment after meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano during a working visit to Italy. During the meeting, the ministers discussed bilateral relations as well as regional developments, including the migrant and refugee crisis.
Addressing a joint press conference, Erjavec said there was no risk of a migration route into the Balkans as long as the refugee deal between Turkey and the European Union continues.
“Dialogue with Ankara should be maintained to keep the deal going,” Erjavec said. However, he voiced concern over negative results of such “a migration wave into the western Balkans.” The minister also warned of the instability that might be created by foreign fighters, who he said could return to their countries as Daesh continues to lose ground.
In March 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal to discourage irregular migration on the Aegean Sea by implementing stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of the 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
As EU officials continue to praise Turkey’s role in the refugee deal and stress the bloc’s commitment to it, Turkish politicians have criticized the EU for not keeping its promises.
The deal included a 6 billion euro aid package to help Ankara care for the millions of refugees in the country, and the EU promised to initially allocate 3 billion euros in its first tranche for projects to support Syrian refugees. However, only 800 million euros have been transferred so far. Ankara says it has spent more than 20 billion euros of its national resources to help and provide shelter to refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. The agreement also allowed for the acceleration of Ankara’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen zone, which is mostly comprised of EU member states.
Joel Millman, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said in late October that the number of asylum seekers crossing into Greece had fallen sharply due to measures Turkey adopted last year after the deal.
According to the latest figures from the IOM, nearly 23,000 people passed to Greece from Turkey in the first 10 months of this year compared to around 170,000 last year and 780,000 in 2015.