7 March: EU-Turkey Summit
Before the summit of European and Turkish delegations, the president Erdogan stressed that they have spent great effort to host 3 million Syrian refugees. The president claimed that Turkey spent $10bn till now. He said: “EU promised to give us €3bn, 4 months have passed since then (…) The prime minister is in Brussels right now. I hope he returns with that money.” In 2015, the EU has pledged €3bn to Turkey on condition that the government can develop projects and apply them. In response, Turkey promised to combat with smugglers more efficiently thereby reducing the migration waves. In the summit, Turkey demanded €3bn more cooperate with EU for the current refugee crises. Then, the draft of an upcoming plan was mentioned. It was shaped by Turkey’s demands and discussions of European leaders.
After negotiations, the Turkish prime minister celebrated the “possible agreement” as ‘with these new proposals we aim to rescue refugees, discourage those who misuse and exploit their situation and find a new era in Turkey-EU relations.’ However, the situation was a little underwhelming. Unlike the prime minister’s statements. In the debates of EU members, some countries rejected to take part the projected relocation scheme. Also raising concerns for the press freedom in Turkey was expressed by some leaders. Just one day before, the most popular Turkish newspaper Zaman (opposed to Erdogan) was seized. The Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi proposed a sine qua noninclusion for protecting the press freedom in Turkey. Otherwise, he clarified that Italy might not accept the operation plan.
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini explained their targets as ‘make sure that all that has been agreed with Turkey is implemented, in particular, related to the Joint Action Plan and the refugee crisis and the need to make it sustainable in the immediate term and in the long run.’ She clearly expressed EU delegates’ concerns when arriving the meeting: “there is a need for Turkey to respond to the call from the European Union side, as a candidate country, to respect the highest standards when it comes to democracy, rule of law, fundamental freedoms, starting with the freedom of expression and the freedom of association.”
After the summit, in his speech, a Greek MEP compared Turkey’s attitudes to “an eastern bazaar”, as they tried to maximize the profit with long talks. Ironically, the Turkish prime minister used a similar phrase to describe their persistence: ‘Kayserili pazarlığı’. Kayseri is a city famous for their skillful tradesmen who can always extract the maximum in deals.
Habertürk (center): Davutoglu has started to negotiations in the EU summit. He said ‘Turkey is also ready for the membership to EU’ – Turkey demands €3bn more and a visa exemption.
Sabah (pro-gov): Turkey has agreed with EU. It will take €3bn more from EU till 2018. Another demand of the Turkish delegation was a visa exemption for its citizens.
Milliyet (center). The haggle is starting today: Turkish and European leaders will meet to discuss the refugee crisis. At every step of the process, Turkey’s help is needed.
Cumhuriyet (con-gov): EU said ‘press freedom is indispensable’. – Turkey used the refugees as a trump card.
DHA (center): IKV Secretary General Cigdem Nas underlines the risk of an unexpected failure. Even if EU accepts the visa exemption, Turkish citizens would not enter all EU members without a visa. People should be informed efficiently. Also, Turkey should take the realities of EU into consideration. Turkey has spent over €10bn till now. EU should relieve Turkey for hosting refugees.
18 March: One-in-One-out
This day, the JAP (Joint-Action Plan) is declared. the EU and Turkey came to an agreement to tackle the irregular migration from Turkey to Europe. It aimed to combat with people- smugglers and removing the incentive for irregular routes to Europe.
The EU and Turkey agreed that:
1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey;
2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU;
3) Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU;
4) Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated;
5) The fulfillment of the visa liberalization roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016. Turkey will take all the necessary steps to fulfill the remaining requirements;
6) The EU will, in close cooperation with Turkey, further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Once these resources are about to be used in full, the EU will mobilize additional funding for the Facility up to an additional €3 billion to the end of 2018;
7) The EU and Turkey welcomed the ongoing work on the upgrading of the Customs Union.
8) The accession process will be re-energized, with Chapter 33 to be opened during the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union and preparatory work on the opening of other chapters to continue at an accelerated pace;
9) The EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.
The bilateral readmission agreement was planned for the legal framework of returns between Greece and Turkey.
At the final stage, Turkey’s monetary demands were fulfilled in the agreement: ‘The EU will speed up the disbursement of funds from the €3 billion Facility for Refugees in Turkey. This funding will support Syrians in Turkey by providing access to food, shelter, education, and healthcare. An additional €3 billion will be made available after this money is used to the full, up to the end of 2018. The UNHCR will be a key actor in the resettlement process to provide additional support and supervision.’
The plan was simply based on the exchange of 1 Syrian refugee (in Greece) and a Syrian asylum seeker (in Turkey). It was planned that Syrian refugees chosen from Turkish detention camps will be resettled in European countries.
In addition, because there are serious concerns about Greece’s capacity to host a lot of asylum seekers, Germany and France pledged to send 600 security and asylum officials to this country.
Rota Haber (con-gov): Visa exemption would not be possible. The vice president of European Commision claimed that the EU is not giving a free ride to Turkey.
Habertürk (center): PM Davutoglu said ‘It is a historic agreement.’ – The leader of the main opposition party (CHP), Kılıçdaroğlu advocated ‘Turkey became a buffer zone’
Sabah (pro-gov): Good news came from EU. Donald Tusk announced the agreement
Haberler.com (center): The vice president of the nationalist opposition party (MHP), Çetin claimed that ‘This deal will make Turkey a detention camp. Turkey should send refugees to Europe.’
Adabasini.com (Northern Cyprus press): The president of Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic, Mustafa Akıncı, declared that this agreement will contribute to both solving the Cyprus problem and the membership process of Turke to EU.
4 April: First Exchange
The plan started to be applied between Greece and Turkey. Over 200 refugees were sent back to Turkey under the JAP (Joint-Action Plan). The governor of Izmir claimed that none of them were Syrian. Later, 16 Syrian refugees were sent to Germany from Turkey. Owing to the deal, for every Syrian refugee sent to Turkey, one Syrian refugee is to be resettled from Turkey to the EU, with the numbers capped at 72,000.After implementing the JAP, all refugees and migrants arriving in the Greek islands started to be sent back to the other shore of Aegean Sea.
However, several concerns were raised because the strict requirements may not include a lot of refugees in Turkey. Only Syrian refugees suitable for European asylum regime are accepted by EU.
(While the first ship is approaching, this banner was unfurled)
Habertürk (center): The readmission has just started. 131 refugees have returned back to Turkey. Most of them are Pakistani.
Sabah (pro-gov): The first group of refugees has arrived. Turkey has already prepared a list of names of migrants who will be sent to EU.
Milliyet (center): In Chios (a Greek island), 450 refugees are resisting against to be sent back.
Cumhuriyet (con-gov): Turkey is converted to a refugee prison for the sake of €3bn.
18 April: Davutoglu warned the EU
The Turkish government underlines the visa exemption as a vital part of the JAP deal. Davutoglu said: ‘I maintain my belief that, God willing, we will have the visa exemption in June. In the absence of that, then, of course, no one can expect Turkey to adhere to its commitments’
Yeni Hayat (con-gov): Ömer Çelik, the minister for EU, said that ‘Indeed, the visa exemption won’t catch up on July 1. But we think that it should be made as soon as possible.’
Habertürk (center): ‘Don’t rub in it (to EU). If the thing is worth doing it’s worth doing well. It’s not a grace’ said the minister of foreign affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Diken (con-gov): Erdogan put two fingers up at EU: ‘Why don’t you change the mentality that allows terrorists to set up tents in front of the European parliament? We will follow our way, you can agree with whoever you can agree. We are at a point of no return.’
20 April: Council of Europe Condemns the Deal
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe published a report which strongly criticized the JAP and the deal between EU and Turkey:’It raises several serious human rights issues relating to the detention of asylum seekers in the “hotspots” on the Greek Aegean islands, the return of asylum seekers to Turkey as a “first country of asylum” or “safe third country”, the Greek asylum system’s inadequate capacity to administer the asylum process in the hotspots and delays in the provision of EU support to Greece, the likely low level of resettlement of refugees from Turkey, and delays in the disbursement of EU financial assistance to Turkey’s efforts to support Syrian refugees.
5 May: Davutoglu announced his resignation
“After consultations with the president, I decided that it would be more appropriate for the unity of the AKP]to change the chairman.” This announcement made just one day after his talks with Erdogan. Many commentators interpreted the power struggles between Davutoglu and Erdogan as the smack of the resignation. They had different approachings on the EU-Turkey deal to reduce the flow of Syrian refugees. Erdogan sees the visa exemption -the biggest outcome of the deal for Turkey- as his achievement.
He explained why Davutoglu should not take credit for this job: ‘During my time as prime minister it was announced [this] would come in October 2016. I don’t understand why bringing it forward four months is presented as a win. I’m saddened by the presentation of small things in a bigger light’
6 May: Fork in the Road
The main demand for Turkey, the visa exemption, is bound to a list of requirements. So, it is expected from Turkey that they will fulfill 5 major political and technical standards, from a long list of 72. Altering the anti-terror laws was the most controversial issue. Ankara claims:. “It is not possible to revise the anti-terror legislation and practices on terrorism when our country continues an intense fight against terrorist organizations.”
10 May: A Turn of the screw
After the components of the JAP deal (on paying €3+3 bn to Turkey) could not reach a clear agreement, Erdogan criticized EU for stipulating making projects. ” They said ‘we will give you €3bn so had anyone paid this amount yet? No. Their officials come and visit our camps and then say ‘Send us your projects, then we pay. Are you kidding? This is ridiculing with our nobility. There are 25 refugee camps. Which projects are they talking about?”
Haber (pro-gov): Erdogan asked EU: ‘Are you kidding us?’
Habertürk (center): Erdogan gave a message to EU: ‘I am not interested in whether they give this money or not. This is not for our budget, but for Syrian refugees.’
20 May: The Contrary legal precedent: Is Turkey really safe third country?
a Greek court ruled that returning of Syrian refugees to Turkey mismatch with the principles of the 1951 Geneva convention on refugees. The court asserted that Turkey could not be defined as a safe-third country.
The decision undermines the legal and practical basis for the EU-Turkey deal, which European leaders had hoped would deter refugees from sailing to Europe by ensuring the swift deportation of most people landing on the Greek islands.
After signing the deal on 18 March, EU officials claimed these deportations would be legally justified on the basis that Turkey respects refugee rights.
23 May: World Humanitarian Summit
Erdogan wrote an article for Guardian. He underlined the role of Turkey in the humanitarian reliefs: ‘Turkey has been a safe haven for people escaping war, destruction, and oppression for centuries, and today we provide humanitarian relief in more than 140 countries on five continents. In fact, Turkey remains the world’s most generous country, spending a bigger share of its GDP on humanitarian aid than any other.’ Then he expressed the position in the Syrian crisis: ‘Having adopted an open-door policy towards Syrian refugees in 2011, we now host nearly 3 million Syrian nationals from diverse ethnic, religious and sectarian backgrounds. In the past five years, Turkey has allocated $10bn to provide Syrian refugees with free healthcare, education, and housing. At a time when the international community failed the Syrian people – 600,000 of whom have lost their lives in the civil war, with 13 million forced from their homes – Turkey, along with the rest of Syria’s neighbors, was left to deal with the conflict’s consequences.’ Finally, he mentions the possibilities for the cooperation of EU and Turkey for the refugee crises. ‘To keep illegal immigration under control Europe and Turkey must work together to create legal mechanisms, such as the March 2016 agreement, for the resettlement of Syrian refugees. By rewarding refugees who play by the rules and making it clear that illegal immigrants will be sent back to Turkey, we can persuade refugees to avoid risking their lives at sea.’
After all, in the first two weeks of June, the process was hanging in limbo. Both two parts accused each other of denying responsibilities. The debate was raised among whether Turkey has adequate qualifications to be a safe third country or not.
6 June: Does it work?
The vice prime minister Numan Kurtulmus answered the question about the deal: ‘Now it’s EU’s turn to fulfill its responsibilities. I assume that the EU will act transparently by taking Turkey which has fulfilled so many responsibilities of its own into consideration. The negotiations are proceeding on a technical level. Our EU and Foreign Affairs Ministers continue their works. Some negotiations will be pursued as a follow up of the meetings in Brussels. We will do our part to make the process result in a positive way’
14 June: Disputed demands
EU has demanded from Turkey to change its anti-terror laws on behalf of more freedom for press and NGOs. The new prime minister Binali Yildirim responded by declaring Turkey won’t change the laws even if it means a collapse in the one-in-one-out deal.
15 June: The Failure has revealed
EU had granted a delay to Turkey meeting 72 conditions of EU politics and border police. The European Commision announced that Turkey has failed to meet a number of the conditions. The most remarkable one was about the anti-terrorism laws.