The Brief: Is the EU-Turkey migrant deal as bad as Donald Trump’s wall?

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.


What is the fundamental difference between Donald Trump’s plans to build a bigly tremendous wall along the border with Mexico and the EU’s migrant deal with Turkey?

Not much, according to Amnesty International, which today published a report on the heart-breaking conditions suffered by refugees as a result of the controversial pact.

In January, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini condemned Trump, saying that building walls was not the “European way”.

“We have a history and a tradition that we celebrate when walls are brought down and bridges are built,” she lectured.

The EU’s deal with Ankara allows the bloc to return asylum seekers to Turkey. Amnesty said that the agreement has left 15,000 refugees trapped in appalling conditions on the Greek islands. As of January, there were an estimated 2,300 unaccompanied refugee or migrant children in Greece.

“It is difficult to discern a difference between the aims of the US administration and that of the EU towards migrants and refugees, the mantra it seems is keep them out at all costs irrespective of the human suffering,” said Iverna McGowan, Amnesty’s EU boss.

McGowan accused the EU of “building the walls of Fortress Europe” through a web of similarly dodgy deals with other countries.

“Let’s be honest, facilitating and supporting the return of migrants and refugees to war-ravaged Libya, where we know they will suffer horrendous abuse in detention is just as morally questionable as the US proposals to build a wall,” she said.

The European Commission today said that the deal was designed to break the business model of people smugglers, stopping them from trafficking people across dangerous seas. It had saved lives, the executive said.

This language has been used before. The Australian government repeatedly used it to justify their controversial crackdown on asylum seekers sailing to the country and before the EU-Turkey deal was struck. Is this a better comparison than Trump’s wall?

Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court said Australia’s detention regime could be a crime against humanity.

Nigel Farage has called for an Australian-style immigration system in Britain after Brexit. Little did the arch-Eurosceptic know that the EU already had one.


Guy Verhofstadt ruffled a few feathers by accusing Brexiteers of destroying Winston Churchill’s legacy. The European Parliament’s Brexit chief told MEPs that the former UK prime minister (voted top of a list of the 100 Greatest Britons in 2002) would have voted Remain.

The former Belgian prime minister also proposed a set of post-Brexit EU reforms, including the setting up of a eurozone government with its own finance minister. Perhaps that would help the eurozone and IMF agree on terms of a new Greek bailout. The president of the Eurogroup’s advisory body insists that ‘Grexit’ is a non-issue.

Verhofstadt’s vision of a two-speed Europe led by the eurozone, which will need treaty change, was opposed by both the S&D and EPP groups, who prefer to leverage the maximum possible from the existing Lisbon Treaty.

EU attempts to stimulate the economy of Madeira by allowing it to impose low tax rates have only benefitted multinationals and the super-rich. Hardly any new jobs have been created.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has suspended a joint proposal on Catalonia’s independence bid, and decided to prosecute the president of the region’s parliament for allowing a pro-independence debate in the chamber.

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is being targeted by fake news and cyberattacks, and the Commission will also take a look at the problems plaguing Euronews.

Could Switzerland end up on Brussels’ tax haven blacklist?  Most Serbians don’t want to go to war to reclaim Kosovo.

The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed calls for EU-wide legislation to protect whistleblowers. Currently, the member states each have their own laws.

The EU finally got the go-ahead to ratify an agreement that facilitates access to literature for visually-impaired people. The copyright waiver had faced opposition from member states.

To mark Valentine’s Day, an EU-funded collection of Europe’s culture, Europeana, has invited people to transcribe a selection of handwritten First World War love letters and bring their stories of romance and betrayal back to life.

Oh and Brusselaars? Apparently, if you haven’t found love with someone from your own region, then you’re more likely to land a foreigner than someone from Flanders or Wallonia.

Speaking of Wallonia, the Parliament votes on the EU-Canada trade deal tomorrow. Check out this trade-themed Valentine’s tweet

Sam Morgan contributed to this Brief. 


Tomorrow, the European Parliament votes on the reforms to the EU’s Emissions Trading System. One amendment would see the largely unregulated shipping sector become subject to ETS oversight. Cargo companies back the idea but ship owners are furious at the move to heap pressure on the slow-moving International Maritime Organisation. The full story will be on EURACTIV soon.

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