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30/09/2016

Commission’s proposal to put Turkey on ‘safe countries’ list under attack

Justice & Home Affairs

Commission’s proposal to put Turkey on ‘safe countries’ list under attack

Turkey entered into accession talks with the EU in 2005, and as a candidate country it should be considered 'safe'. [Patrick Denker/Flickr]

Commission plans to put Turkey on a list of “safe countries”, to which migrants can be quickly returned as they would not risk oppression, have run into opposition from several European nations, sources said on Thursday (8 October).

Facing a spiralling migration crisis, the European Commission last month proposed putting Turkey and six non-EU Balkan countries on the list to make deportations easier.

But divisions over the Turkey plan are “at least as toxic” as those that split the 28-nation European Union over plans to redistribute tens of thousands of refugees around the bloc, a European source said.

Several member states refuse to add Turkey – home to two million refugees from the Syrian war – because of its poor record on judicial independence, minority rights and freedom of expression, several diplomatic sources told AFP.

Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Jean Asselborn, said a “definitive position has not been reached” on the issue and the European Parliament would now be given its say on the “very sensitive subject of safe countries”.

Turkey, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are the proposed safe countries.

One solution was to add the Balkan states first and then deal later with Turkey, a diplomatic source said.

Turkey is the main gateway for migrants to the EU.

During a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an this week, the EU offered to resettle more refugees in return for Ankara setting up new camps and boosting its coastguard.

>>Read: Commission details offer to Turkey to tackle refugee crisis

Turkey, however, has given a lukewarm response to the EU plan, indicating, among other things, that funding needs to be drastically increased.

>> Read: Turkey frowns at EU refugee aid plan