In 2015 the EU faced one of the most severe crises in its entire history. The refugee flows from the Aegean Sea caused a humanitarian drama that required a rapid response. While one particular member state, Greece, has been the most affected, another transit country, Turkey, has played a crucial role. A candidate country and also a long-term economic partner, Turkey was there to keep refugees out, as the guardian of Europe’s borders. Externalizing the issue seemed like the best option for European leaders after the many inconclusive attempts of the European Commission to relocate asylum seekers among EU member states. Following an unexpected revitalization of relations, Turkey and the EU concluded a deal to halt these irregular migration flows to Europe. The EU-Turkey statement was signed on 18 March with the proviso of certain concessions be made to Turkey, such as opening chapters in its accession negotiations, 3 (plus 3) billion euros and, most importantly, visa-free travel for its citizens. Nevertheless, the deal was immediately subject to criticism from many sectors. One year on, an honest assessment is very much needed since the EU is considering new deals with other transit countries. In the meantime, both Turkey and key countries of the EU, such as the Netherlands, France and Germany, are facing very critical electoral challenges of their own. For this reason, internal politics and foreign policy decisions are highly interwoven. The authors assess the first year of the EU-Turkey statement on refugees, providing an analysis of current situation developments.
Paper prepared for the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and the Elcano Royal Institute, March 2017. Published also in Analyses of the Elcano Royal Institute (ARI), No. 21/2017 (21 March 2017).
1. Stemming the flow across the Aegean Sea: data evidence
2. Political and legal challenges to the deal
3. Will unfulfilled promises be the breaking point?
Conclusions: The deal: can it – and should it – be maintained?