Assessing the EU-Turkey “1:1 Scheme”

June 16, 2016

Panelists offered different perspectives about the controversial March 2016 agreement between the European Union and Turkey during a discussion at the School of Public Policy's Global Policy Academy on June 10. The EU-Turkey agreement includes the provision that Turkey will accept migrants and refugees to be returned from Greece, and that the EU will start resettling Syrian refugees directly from Turkey.

While acknowledging its shortcomings Gerald Knaus, chairman of the European Stability Initiative, argued that the EU-Turkey agreement is "by far the best way forward." He went on to say, "The March agreement is saving lives." He pointed out also that the agreement was helping to secure Europe's borders, and that this was critical to ensuring broad public support. "Can the EU restore control over its borders not at the expense of another member state, and without building a fortress?" he asked. Knaus criticized the EU for not doing enough to implement the agreement noting that there was a critical need for additional caseworkers. "The system has to be better managed. It should be possible to treat people well," he said.

CEU Associate Professor Boldizsár Nagy spoke about whether the EU-Turkey agreement was consistent with applicable EU laws. He quoted from the 2013 Asylum Procedure Directive noting that Turkey did not meet the definition of a "safe third country" as detailed in Article 38. "What Syrians enjoy in Turkey," he said, "is less than sufficient protection."

Nagy commented that persecuted people will continue to travel to Europe and will relocate their routes. He admitted that many of those coming through Lybia may not be in need of International protection. He said that if the EU wanted to reduce the number of irregular arrivals it should consider issuing different types of job seeking and study visas for those who come in order to improve their life chances.

András Kováts, director of Menedék, the Hungarian Association for Migrants, spoke about his concerns that Turkey was not providing sufficient protection for refugees.

CEU Visiting Professor Rainer Münz, who moderated the discussion, expressed concerns about Nagy's proposal to offer more and different types of visas noting that many of the people currently coming to Europe via the Mediterranean might lack the skills and qualifications they would need to study or work under such existing types of visa.

In his closing statement Münz asked that we not forget about the large group of internally displaced people (some 40 million) who do not benefit from any international protection.

The public panel discussion was organized as part of Migration Policy in a European Context, an elective course for CEU master's students on fundamental aspects of European migration and migration policy including issues of demography, labor migration, European border management, diaspora and citizenship (policies and politics), the rights of migrants, and asylum policy.