Refugee deal continues to preoccupy Germany

Angela Merkel at the EU summit in Brussels yesterday (9 March). [European Council]

Angela Merkel yesterday (9 March) harshly criticised Turkey’s “misplaced Nazi comparisons” ahead of the EU summit but still insisted the refugee deal is important and must stay in place. Criticism is growing in both the German and European parliaments though. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Despite all its shortcomings, the EU-Turkey refugee deal is still the right course of action, according to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was addressing the German parliament yesterday.

During her speech in front of the Bundestag, Merkel insisted that the European agreement is preferable to a national solution.

Turkey and the refugee deal were probably the most sensitive issues of the speech. While the Nazi comparisons undoubtedly strain Turkish-German ties, Berlin knows that a breakdown in relations would have immense consequences.

However, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert did not hold back and he also denounced President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comments, before Merkel took to the stage.

The chancellor herself condemned the “unjustifiable” comments made by the Turkish president and his foreign minister, adding that “comparisons with Nazi Germany always lead to misery, to the trivialisation of the crimes against humanity committed by national socialism”.

Turkish Prime Minister Benali Yıldırım, responding to the chancellor’s comments, said Germany “may be disturbed” that a yes vote is likely in Turkey’s upcoming referendum but that if it is interfering in the process it amounted to “meddling” in another country’s affairs and was “very wrong”.

New Turkey reform could see Erdogan stay in power until 2029

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has approved a constitutional reform bill that would vastly strengthen the powers of his office and a referendum on the issue is likely on 16 April, officials said today (10 February).

Berlin-Ankara relations have also buckled because of the arrest of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel and three Green MPs were expelled from the Bundestag chamber after they stood up and displayed t-shirts with “Free Deniz” written on them.

Chairman of the Left Party Dietmar Bartsch accused Merkel of not having done enough to secure the released of the Die Welt journalist and he insisted weapon sales and aid contributions should cease until Yücel is a free man again. Bartsch added that Germany has become dependent on the refugee deal.

SPD Chairman Thomas Oppermann warned that Erdoğan’s outbursts are just designed to provoke Europe.

EU refugee deal limits German response to journalist arrest

Angela Merkel has called the arrest of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel “disappointing” but will still proceed cautiously in order to not jeopardise the EU-Turkey refugee deal. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

But the deal is also garnering more criticism at European level too. At yesterday’s Conference of the Presidents a proposal to hold a plenary debate next week in Strasbourg on the agreement was defeated.

The proposal had been made by the Greens/EFA group, which has been highly critical of the European Court of Justice’s February rejection of a case brought by three asylum-seekers against the Turkey deal.

The Luxembourg court claimed that it did not have the authority to hear the case because the refugee deal has been agreed between the leaders of the member states, not the Council itself, and Turkey’s foreign minister. The ECJ has no jurisdiction over bilateral deals.

Greens/EFA Co-Chair Philippe Lamberts said a “majority in the European Parliament” had “abandoned democratic control of the EU-Turkey deal willingly”.

“As we approach the anniversary of the agreement, we find ourselves once more involved in a failed deal and no one is willing to take responsibility for it,” Lamberts added.

Distributing refugees throughout the EU also remains a pressing issue for the bloc, particularly since member states like Hungary continue to oppose the relocation system.

Timmermans: Solidarity is key to refugee relocation and resettlement

European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans spoke today (8 February) as the executive adopted its ninth progress report on the EU’s emergency refugee relocation and resettlement schemes.

But the way the European Union processes refugees is in need of attention and a report on the issue was presented by Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström (ALDE) yesterday.

Her proposals for reforming EU asylum rules, the so-called Dublin III Regulation, include non-compliant member states being excluded from solidarity payments offered by the European Structural and Investment Funds and no “admissibility checks” ahead of relocation.

Other measures include transferring asylum-seekers to other EU countries automatically once the first country to receive them reaches 100% of its allocated share, rather than the 150% proposed by the European Commission.

Wikström also proposed a five-year-long transitional period in which the quotas for member states can be based, using factors like GDP and population.