Turkey′s high expectations of the EU summit | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.03.2016
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Turkey's high expectations of the EU summit

Turkish experts fear that both Turkey and Europe have unrealistic expectations of Monday's EU summit. For Ankara, it's about more than just financial aid.

Grenze Türkei Syrien Flüchtlinglager bei Kilis

Refugee camp for Syrians near Turkey's border with Syria

"We expect the EU to support Turkey with a stronger message about visa exemption," emphasizes Turkey's Deputy Minister for EU Affairs, Ali Sahin. "Turkey has begun to take migrants back from Greece," he says. "The readmission agreement is being implemented. This was one of the basic conditions for visa exemption for Turkish citizens."

Türkei Ankara Treffen zur Flüchtlingskrise Merkel und Davutoglu

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds joint press conference with Turkish premier Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara, February 2016

Furthermore, he says, Ankara expects that the financial aid already pledged, a total of three billion euros, will not be "project-linked." According to Sahin, this would slow down the process. Turkey hopes that the first instalment of 1.5 billion euros will be released in April.

"Despite the NATO mission in the Aegean, policing measures will not be effective in stopping people fleeing to Europe," Sahin said. "The fundamental solution to this crisis is to end the war in Syria. The EU must carefully monitor the ceasefire in Syria and support the Turkish suggestion for a solution without Assad."

At the EU summit, Turkey wants to present an action plan that will set out what the country is able to do in terms of the education, provision of jobs and healthcare for the refugees.

Honest news

However, the Chairman of the Turkish parliament's EU Integration Committee, Kasim Gülpinar, is sceptical about the financial aid already pledged to Turkey. The member of parliament for the Islamic-Conservative ruling party AKP says he sees no sign that the financial aid will be paid in any form, any time soon.

Furthermore, he has voiced criticism that, for EU countries, political interests carry more weight than the refugees' humanitarian situation, even though Brussels often criticizes Turkey for human rights abuses and a lack of democracy. "There are 2,688,000 refugees in Turkey. It must be accepted that the solution to this problem has to be a political solution. We expect honest, sincere news from the EU," says Gülpinar.

Türkei Ankara Flüchtling Syrien Frau Straße Slum

A Syrian refugee walks through a slum in the Turkish capital, Ankara

'We are still at the start of the crisis'

However, Murat Erdogan, who heads the Centre for Migration and Political Research at Hacettepe University in Ankara, comments that both Ankara and Brussels have unrealistic expectations of Monday's summit. "Turkey is demanding of the EU: Stop Assad and Russia. But the EU thinks there is no solution without Assad," he says. Erdogan adds that there are too many conditions attached to the EU's financial aid package. "It's not even clear how this financial aid will be transferred to Turkey. And these are the conditions under which the EU is demanding of Turkey that it hold back the refugees," he says. "We're still at the start of the crisis."

There are more than 50 million displaced people worldwide – the highest number since World War Two. Around 1.5 million of them are in Europe – with more than one million in Germany. People have to think about why, out of 28 EU member states, only eight states are accepting refugees, says Murat Erdogan. "More than 120,000 refugees have arrived in Europe via Turkey in the past two months. Europe thinks: Never mind how much financial aid we have to pay – it'll take the pressure off. But the Europeans are deceiving themselves. Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to have a better understanding of this problem. She knows that unless there is good cooperation with Turkey, the crisis will keep getting worse." Other EU leaders need to understand that as well, he says. "That's why the special summit in Brussels is absolutely critical."

Griechenland Flüchtlinge an der Grenze zu Mazedonien bei Idomeni

A little boy rests on the way to the Idomeni migrant camp on Greece-Macedonia border

Ultimately, the solution has to be reached together – both Turkey and the EU are very well aware of that, says Metin Corabatir, the President of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration (IGAM) in Ankara. In an interview with DW, he described Chancellor Merkel as a "great example" in terms of leadership. The EU-Turkey summit in Brussels presents a good opportunity for reaching an effective agreement, he continued. "The refugees have a right to a life in humane conditions. All parties involved must make a contribution to this. We need additional agreements to improve the refugees' living conditions – not just financial negotiations."