Many illegal migrants enter the EU through Turkey. To prevent a further influx, the EU and Turkey started to negotiate a readmission agreement in 2002, but it only resulted in a deal now that Turkey's demand for visa liberalisation has been taken into account. The EP endorsed the deal and calls for implementing it without further delays and new demands. "It won't affect refugees in need of real protection," said Renate Sommer, a German member of the EPP group, who wrote the resolution.
How will the treatment of illegal immigrants who enter the EU via Turkey change with this new agreement? What would happen to those trying to find protection in Europe?
Turkey promises to take back people who have illegally entered the EU. This has no effect on refugees fleeing conflicted zones looking for shelter. They're protected by the Geneva Convention and can always apply for asylum.
However, we have a lot of irregular migrants crossing borders with no real need for protection and this has to end.
Do you think this will decrease the number of illegal immigrants in the EU?
Certainly. The border is not secure enough and many of them take this opportunity to reach Europe. Turkey promises to make it less permeable.
Turkey has long rejected such an agreement. What has changed now?
They tried to put pressure on us demanding the liberalisation of visas to be implemented first. Obviously, the EU couldn’t accept this. These talks about visa facilitation for Turkish citizens were launched when the agreement was officially signed [in December 2013]. Progress on this now depends on whether and how the readmission agreement is implemented.
How will it be monitored? Will it affect the accession negotiations?
We will see whether Turkey will readmit people that illegally immigrated into the EU to its territory.
Cyprus seems to be the major hurdle, as it still is not recognised by Turkish politicians who refused to include it in the agreement. The island is an integral part of the EU, and therefore many of the chapters of the accession negotiations are frozen. It might be a chance for Turkey to change its position without losing face.
To enter into force, the readmission agreement still needs to be formally ratified by both the EU and by Turkey.