Most Germans believe that the EU should stop accession negotiations with Turkey as well as a controversial refugee deal, according to a poll published on Sunday (7 August).
The deal, agreed by Ankara in exchange for the revival of financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to much of the EU and accelerated membership talks, has sharply cut the number of refugees entering Europe via eastern routes.
Last year Germany took in around 1.1 million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, far more than any other EU state, creating conditions that have led to a rise in social and political tensions in Europe’s powerhouse economy.
Greece’s Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas on Wednesday (3 August) denied having called for a backup strategy – a “Plan B” – in case the EU-Turkey refugee deal collapses amid escalating tensions between Brussels and Ankara.
But the Emnid survey for mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag showed 52% were in favour of the migration deal being terminated, compared with 35% who wanted it to continue.
More than two-thirds of the 502 people surveyed on 4 August also wanted an immediate freeze of aid payments to Turkey and 66% wanted the EU accession talks broken off.
Under the migration pact, Ankara agreed to take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians who cross by sea to Greece illegally.
The reciprocal visa-free access has been delayed due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and concern in the West about the scale of Ankara’s crackdown following a failed coup.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last weekend Ankara would back out of the refugee agreement with the EU if the bloc did not deliver visa-free travel.
Turkey would have to back out of its agreement with the European Union to stem the flow of migrants into the bloc if the EU does not deliver visa-free travel for Turks, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
“If visa liberalisation does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back (refugees) and the agreement of 18 March,” he said, adding that the Turkish government was waiting for a precise date for visa liberalisation. “It could be the beginning or middle of October – but we are waiting for a firm date.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Chief of Staff, Peter Altmaier, said on Friday there was “no Plan B” for the migrant deal and told the Berliner Zeitung he was convinced it would remain in place.
European Commission committed to EU-Turkey refugee deal
Contacted by EurActiv, European Commission spokesperson for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Tove Ernst last week said that the EU remained committed to the EU-Turkey refugee deal but added that the challenge was greater than that agreement alone.
“We have a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration addressing all aspects of the migration challenge. We have spent the past 15 months putting in place the tools needed to future-proof our systems, both internally and externally,” Ernst said.
“Our assistance to Greece and other countries under pressure continues, our measures to tackle the root causes of migration and preparations for the rapid roll-out of the new European Border and Coast Guard which was approved by the European Parliament and Council before the summer, among many other measures,” she added.