PositionCenter for European Policy Studies - Interview

Breaking a stalemate dating back to June 2012, Turkey signed, on 16 December, an agreement on the readmission of migrants who entered the EU from its territory. This move comes in parallel with the launch of a dialogue with the Union on visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens. Sergio Carrera, research fellow in the field of justice and home affairs at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), looks at the hidden face of these long negotiations.

Is this agreement historic, as claimed by Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom?

Politically, it is obviously an important step forward in EU-Turkey relations in the area of immigration. For the Turks, this is a way of saying that they will shoulder their responsibilities. On the EU side, it is a positive message on visa liberalisation. It should be kept in mind that there is already an agreement between the Union and Turkey on migration policies, which gives a number of rights to Turkish citizens. In practice, though, the EU will still be obliged to fulfil its obligations towards illegal migrants entering via Turkey: their right to apply for asylum and the principle of non-refoulement for those in risk of torture or death in their country of origin. Readmission can consequently never be automatic, otherwise it would be a human rights violation. Similarly, visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens will take at least three years.

Why did it take so long to sign this agreement?

I too am very interested in that question. The matter has been on the table for years. I remember writing an article eight years ago about the signature of an agreement on the readmission of illegal migrants to Turkey. It was unthinkable at the time for the Turks to sign. Then, out of the blue, they agreed. We're going to explore the matter further. It is important to understand that this is a political process. My feeling, though, is that several factors came into play, including EU Court of Justice rulings and European security initiatives.

Austrian MEP Hubert Pirker (EPP) says the gradual liberalisation of visas for Turks will have to await EU implementation of a controversial system of intelligent borders for registering the entries and exits of non-Europeans. What are your views on that?

I think that this was one of the main factors that facilitated the agreement. Why? Because...

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