EU looks to keep migrant deal with Turkey alive as fallout from failed coup continues to roil relations

EU looks to keep migrant deal with Turkey alive as fallout from failed coup continues to roil relations
By bne IntelliNews August 4, 2016

Despite heightened tensions between Ankara and Brussels in the wake of the failed coup attempt, the EU is still trying to keep a key deal over migrants with Turkey alive.

The commission has a Plan A and that is to make the EU-Turkey deal work successfully, European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters on August 3. “It is not a plan we have been just pursuing since yesterday. We have a comprehensive agenda for migration since 2015 and the EU-Turkey deal is part of our broader response,” she said.

The spokesman’s comments came after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Ankara would pull out of the deal if the EU failed to deliver visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by October.

The deal signed in March aims to stem the flow of migrants into Europe. As part of the agreement, the EU promised an easing of visa rules for Turkish nationals, fast-track accession talks and €6bn in financial aid until 2018.

The future of the deal, however, is becoming increasingly uncertain. Ankara is refusing to change its anti-terror laws and it is unlikely to do so in the near future as the government goes after those who were involved in the failed coup attempt.

The EU condemned the putsch, but has also criticised the government crackdown. “We are following the developments regarding the State of Emergency Turkey has declared after the attempted coup, which the European Union condemned, very closely and with concern,” EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a joint statement on July 21.

They called on Turkey to respect under all circumstances the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right of all individuals concerned to a fair trial.

However, such statements have only served to anger President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government. They argue supporters of the US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen are posing a threat to the country’s very existence and Turkey needs to root them out of the state institutions that they had infiltrated.

60,000 people, including military officers, policemen, judges, prosecutors and state employees have been suspended for their links to Gulen, who the government claims was behind the unsuccessful coup attempt.

Turkey complains that its Western allies have failed to show solidarity with the government following the coup. And Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland said on August in Ankara, where he met Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, that there has been too little understanding of the challenges faced by Turkey after the botched putsch.

“There is a need for cleaning up in the aftermath of the attempted coup, any retribution must be done in conformity with the rule of law and the standards in the European Convention on Human Rights,” he added.

Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said on August 3 that he would start a discussion among European heads of government to quit talks with Turkey about joining the bloc because of the country's democratic and economic deficits, Reuters reported. “We know that the democratic standards are clearly not sufficient to justify Turkey's accession. The economic question is at least just as significant because the Turkish economy is too far from the European average.”

Turkey has been a candidate for EU membership since 1999. Formal accession negotiations started in 2005. Accession talks, however, have stalled over the past couple of years as the pace of reforms in Turkey has slowed.