Breakthrough unlikely at EU refugee crisis summit

Analysts expect progress but no major breakthrough at a special EU-Turkey summit Monday

Breakthrough unlikely at EU refugee crisis summit

World Bulletin / News Desk

Experts predicted progress but no major breakthrough at a special EU-Turkey summit on the refugee crisis to take place on Monday, due to disagreements among EU member states and reluctance of many to share the burden.

“We are far from reaching an ideal solution, but it’s not going to be as bad as some commentaries suggest,” Timo Lochocki of German Marshall Fund told Anadolu Agency.

“The ideal outcome would be an encompassing deal with Turkey, an agreement on a common European border protection mechanism, and an agreement on a EU refugee resettlement quota for the whole of 2016,” he said, underlining however that this was unlikely due to divisions among the 28 member states.

Germany, which accepted more than 1 million refugees last year, has failed to convince all member states so far to share the burden.

Despite criticism by Hungary, Poland and several other eastern member states, Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her open-door policy for refugees who flee conflicts and civil wars.

Merkel has repeatedly argued that the refugee influx can be stopped by the implementation of an EU-Turkey action plan agreed upon in November last year.

The plan aimed at improving the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey through a 3-billion euro ($3.3 million) program and stopping illegal trafficking by NATO patrols in the Aegean.

EU member states were also expected to accept some of the refugees directly from Turkey as part of a resettlement plan to be established by Ankara and EU member states.

Lochocki said Merkel’s resettlement plan faced opposition particularly from several Central and Eastern EU member states, and her idea to beef up patrols on EU’s external borders at the Aegean could not receive strong backing.

According to the German expert, with Monday’s summit, a group of countries led by Germany, might move ahead, without waiting for the others to join them, on the implementation of the plan.

“We might be heading to a step-by-step approach. On Monday, we are likely to see increased support from other member states for Greek border controls. And I think that a core group of European countries will agree on resettling limited numbers of refugees and this will be key, because this might provide the blueprint for further resettlement in the weeks to come,” he said.

The EU leaders have agreed last September to relocate 160,000 refugees from countries like Greece and Italy, which have been the most affected by the refugee crisis, to other member states, as a sign of European solidarity. But the plan has not been fully implemented yet.

For Daniela Schwarzer, senior director of German Marshall Fund’s Europe Program, the worsening refugee crisis at the Greece-Macedonia border, has made it more urgent for EU members to take steps to share the burden.

“It is more urgent since the Austrians and others tightened their borders. Now there is a real risk of destabilization in Greece,” she said.

“It’s a question of days. The number of refugees coming in every day may put such a big pressure on this small country, that a humanitarian crisis may erupt, maybe even a political one,” she warned.

More than 111,000 people have arrived in Greece by sea from Turkey since the start of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Thousands of refugees were stranded near Macedonia border this week, after Macedonian authorities tightened border controls, along with other Balkan countries, which reacted to Austria’s decision to put strict limits on the inflow of asylum seekers.

Schwarzer said Austria’s decision had provided a temporary relief for Merkel, as the number of refugees coming to Germany started to decrease, but underlined that she still needed concrete results from the EU summit, to convince German public opinion about her policy.

"March 13 is an important date for Merkel, there will be regional elections in three German states," she said.

“If Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union will not lose a lot and if the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) does not gain a lot, then she will have more time,” she said. “But if the AfD really shoots up like 15 to 18 percent in Western Germany, where they do not have a traditional rooting in the society […] then this will be interpreted as a warning for Merkel, for the general elections in 2017.”

The record number of refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 have put a strain on local authorities, triggering anti-refugee sentiments and increasing pressure on Merkel ahead of state elections in March.

 


Last Mod: 05 Mart 2016, 09:32
Add Comment