Turkey extorting EU using migrant flows to Greece

Statements made by Turkish ministers that their country will suspend the 2014 agreement with the EU on the readmission of migrants has been perceived as an immediate threat by Greece. Statements by Turkish government officials such as Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu come as part of the country’s reactions to EU sanctions in relation to its moves in the Eastern Mediterranean, however, at a time when immigration flows to Greece are increasing with geometric progress.

Turkey’s loose policy with regard to migrants who leave its territory is, however, lately more intense. According to the official figures mentioned by the Greek Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection Giorgos Koumoutsakos in the House, migratory flows increased by 30% recently. “From June 20th to July 20th, only 3200 arrivals of immigrants and refugees were registered on the three islands of the northeastern Aegean, Lesvos, Chios, and Samos. The corresponding year-on-year flows were 2,307 people. An increase of 30%. Over the past months, across the frontier, from Evros to the Aegean islands, flows are showing a strong upward trend. We are not, of course, today in the face of the dramatic events of 2015-2016, but the criticality of the situation remains, ” Mr. Koumoutsakos said during the discussion about the government’s programmatic statements.

Koumoutsakos: Vigilance is required

In response to relevant press questions on Cavusoglu’s statements, Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection Giorgos Koumoutsakos made the following statement:

“Recent statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu on the unilateral non-implementation of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement in 2014 as long as there is no EU visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, they repeat Turkish positions and decisions.already known since 2017.

These statements of the Turkish Foreign Ministry do not concern the implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration of March 2016. Greece will continue to emphasize the importance of fully implementing this Joint Declaration and will take relevant initiatives.

In this context, the Informal Council of European Ministers responsible for Internal Affairs and Immigration Policy in Helsinki, which took place last week, as well as the informal meeting organized by France with the participation of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs of the Member States, EU members in Paris last Monday, I stressed that Europe should be vigilant, while stressing the seriousness of the significant increase in migratory flows in the Eastern Mediterranean. ”

Clarifications from the Commission

The European Commission proceeded today to the necessary clarification that the “readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey has not yet come into force anyway” and is not related to the EU-Turkey declaration on immigration, as per statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The Commission spokesman, responding to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) today, reiterated the statement made yesterday Tuesday during the daily briefing of reporters in Brussels, while Cavusoglu’s statements were already known. As the CNA broadcast yesterday, Natasha Baardot reiterated:

“We have seen the comments of the Turkish Foreign Minister, which are not mentioned in the EU-Turkey declaration (on immigration) but in the readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey.”

New migration routes

Turkey’s threats, on the one hand, and the increased flow of migrants on the other, have alarmed the Greek state mechanism, which further finds that there are new migratory routes such as the Alexandroupolis-Samothrakis Marine Corridor, and that even more pressure is expected as the weather conditions favor flows.

The Greek government has already announced the strengthening of the protection of the common Greek and European borders, in particular, maritime borders, but also the reformation of the institutional framework for asylum, while at the same time strengthening the Boards of Appeal of second instance. At the same time, Mr. Koumoutsakos announced the implementation of  “an effective return program for those who do not have the right to live in Greece”.

All this, however, is undermined given Turkey’s intentions, as expressed in Turkish ministry statements. The suspension of the readmission agreement concluded by Turkey with the EU in 2014, was announced by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in an interview.

In an interview with TGRT, he said that “the readmission agreement and visa waiver will come into force at the same time. We have suspended the readmission agreement, ” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in an interview with TV channel TGRT.

This is Turkey’s first reaction to the sanctions imposed by the EU. due to its activities in the Cypriot EEZ as it announced that it was stopping the implementation of the agreement under which it had to allow the return to Turkey and return to their home countries migrants sent back from European countries, including Greece.

Mevlut Cavusoglu has repeatedly stated that the sanctions of the EU are unacceptable and have no value for Turkey.

From Brussels, however, it is noted that despite statements by Cavusoglu and other Turkish officials, in practice Turkey’s policy on the immigration agreement has not changed.

“We have seen the comments of the Turkish Foreign Minister. We do not see any change in policy. Both sides remain committed to implementing the EU-Turkey declaration, “said European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bardot during yesterday’s briefing.

“The implementation of the readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey in all its provisions is still one of the prerequisites for the visa liberalization. The Commission continues to support and encourage Turkey’s efforts to complete as soon as possible the completion of all outstanding issues on visa liberalization,” she added.