Party-Political Youth Organisations: Replace EU-Turkey Deal With Dignified Migration Policy

Today, it is one year since the deal between the European Union and Turkey on relocation of refugees came into force.

In the absence of a functional relocation scheme within the European Union, a deal was forged that would effectively push back refugees to Turkey, deemed a safe third country. There are, however, numerous reports from leading human rights organisations that Turkey is not safe for refugees (source: HRW, Amnesty International).

The EU-Turkey deal decreased the amount of crossings along the so called Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece. However, the number of migrants trying to reach Europe via the so called Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy increased . The latter route is considerably more dangerous than the former, leading to new deadly records each year. More than 5000 migrants lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2016 – more than any previous year. In the first two months of 2017, the death toll in the Mediterranean is already higher than in previous years. The vast majority of these victims were attempting to reach Italy (source: IOM).

One year later, we regret to note that the EU-Turkey deal has worsened the already dire situation of thousands of displaced persons. Furthermore, deals modeled on the EU-Turkey deal with even less stable countries, like Libya and several countries in North Africa, threaten to lock up vulnerable people in inhumane situations. We therefore demand the following:

  1. The urgent implementation of a functional framework for the resettlement of refugees in the European Union. The size of the quotas must reflect the actual needs of protection of asylum seekers.
  2. Sufficient support to countries of entry, in particular Greece and Italy, to ensure decent living conditions for refugees and the resources needed to expediently process asylum applications.
  3. The abolishment of the Dublin-II regulation and an end to the nationalization of asylum policy in general.
  4. The constitution of a European Agency for Asylum and Migration responsible for the examining of asylum applications. This agency has the responsibility to coordinate the national asylum agencies, increase the efficiency and grant for the rights of refugees by consistently applying existing European standards.
  5. The creation of more legal channels of migration in order to save lives and reduce human trafficking by all EU Member States to commonly introducing a “humanitarian visa system” allowing refugees to enter the EU territory legally, and thus be able to seek asylum on humanitarian grounds upon arrival. The adoption of common criteria for these visas, and the enabling of asylum seekers to apply to all of the EU countries in any EU embassy by creating a common asylum policy at European level.
  6. The revoking of the EU-Turkey deal and the halting of plans for other similar deals with third countries, such as with Libya, until there are guarantees that all agreements with third countries comply with the international humanitarian legal obligations of EU member states. The EU to work together to even out the differences in financial responsibility of member states in managing the external border in order to make sure that no country feel that it is necessary to outsource border control to non-EU countries.
  7. The allocation of sufficient resources to the Asylum and Migration Fund, which will include the former asylum and refugee funds, in the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020. The EU to ensure that the EU external aid priorities and fundings are coherent with the ones of the Asylum and Migration fund.


EFAy – European Free Alliance Youth
European Liberal Youth (LYMEC)
Young Democrats for Europe (YDE)
Young European Socialists
IUSY – International Union of Socialist Youth
Youth of the European Left
IFLRY – International Federation of Liberal Youth
Young European Federalists [JEF]
Federation of Young European Greens – FYEG

Picture by Elias Markou

Turkish-Syrian relations and the Syrian Spring: New Prospects for the Middle East

Of all Turkey’s neighboring states, Syria is considered to have the most complex and difficult relationship with it. The historical mistrust and territorial disputes, which originated in the early years of the tenth century as a result of the Arab struggle against the Ottoman Empire and continued in the French Mandate of Syria, worsened during the Cold War. In the 50s opposition was mainly ideological and it caused suspicions and hostility between the two countries that considered themselves the antithesis of a bipolar world. Turkey was the bastion of Western interests in the Near East and it maintained close relations with Israel while Syria aligned itself with Nasser and the Soviet-bloc. In the 80s and 90s the problem of exploitation of the waters of the Euphrates river caused another source of friction which, together with the various attacks and the territorial claims (such as the province of Hatay, formerly Sanjak of Alexandretta), stiffened the already difficult bilateral relationships.

An opening in relations between the two countries took place in 2004 following the outbreak of the Iraq war with the official visit in Turkey of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During the same visit, in addition to signing a series of economic agreements on tax issues, investment and tourism, the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq was reaffirmed. After the Iraq war and the loss of Syrian control of Lebanon, the Syrian-Turkish relations increased also because Damascus was trying to overcome isolation and regional impasse. The common interests between the two countries were linked to the Iraq conflict and to the fear of the formation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Furthermore, between the summer of 2007 and that of 2008, Turkish diplomacy, in addition to having made possible the implementation of important agreements in various subjects, took numerous actions to promote the signing of a real peace agreement between Syria and the State of Israel. For Israel, the core business of the peace process was based on the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, while it would have to suspend all support for Hezbollah and Hamas and to expel from Damascus the Hamas political leader, Khaled Mashaal. In addition, Syria would promise Israel an easing of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The insertion of Turkey within the peace process, inspired by the policy inaugurated by Ahmet Davutoglu, the “zero problems with neighbors” was severely compromised, between December 2008 and January 2009, following the launch of the Military Operation Cast Lead by the Israeli government against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Those actions taken by the Israeli government and the subsequent sanctions against the occupied territories caused a strain in the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel that not even the inauguration of Barack Obama at the White House in January 2009 was able to relieve. In Autumn of 2010, Syria asked Turkey to vigorously resume the process interrupted in summer 2008. However, the first uprising in Dara’a in February / March 2011 were now close and the harsh repression perpetrated by the regime of Bashar al-Asad in tackling street protests of the Syrian spring has rapidly deteriorated Turkish-Syrian diplomatic relations to the point that Turkey has openly criticized the actions of the Alawite regime and has disrupted diplomatic relations between Ankara and Damascus.

Between May and June 2011, the Turkish government offered the Syrian people and the opposition of the Syrian Alawite regime the possibility of providing international resonance to its dissent, hosting in Antalya the Syria for Change conference, which subsequently facilitated the establishment of the Syrian National Council, or rather the main platform of opposition to the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad. This gradual rapprochement of Turkey to the forces of opposition to the Syrian regime and the parallel disruption of diplomatic relations with Ba’athist Syria has inevitably provoked tensions between Ankara and Tehran. The response was swift. In October 2011, the former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Rahim Safani, harshly criticized the Turkish government, its projection of regional power, the weight of its relations with NATO forces and particularly the process of secularization promoted by Ankara towards Islam. The actions that Damascus decides to take towards Turkey will certainly be influenced by the position the latter will assume in relation to a hypothetical scenario of an armed intervention in Syria.

As is known, despite the recent condemnation of the massacre in the town of Hula by the UN Security Council and the incessant demands to Syrian authorities to stop the violence and to respect its commitments under the ceasefire, the use of military force in Syria does not seem to be a viable option because of the vetoes by the Russian Federation and the Republic of China. In recent weeks it seems rather more feasible that the prospect suggested by U.S. President Obama, following “the Yemeni model”, could open the way toward a “soft landing” which provides, in agreement with the Russian Federation, the exile of Bashar al-Assad, leaving a part of his government in power.

In addition to supporting the efforts of the Syrian opposition, it is evident that in this transitional scenario, Turkey could stimulate a dialogue with the various ethnic and religious groups of the country.

Among the alternatives to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, in fact, there is a direction towards an Islamic Syria, and from this point of view on several occasions, the Muslim Brotherhood said they were enthusiastic admirers of the Turkish model or a model able to overcome the secular authoritarian military creating a traditional and conservative system in terms of values, but distinctly liberal in terms of economic reforms.

A “new” Syria that is able to rise from the ashes of the regime of Bashar al-Assad will probably hasten to restore diplomatic relations with Turkey which were abruptly interrupted, could facilitate dialogue with Israel and would be forced to review their relations to the internal Iranian-led Shiite axis.



Nicola Censini LLM

Young Democrats for Europe (YDE)
Jeunes Democrates Europeens (JDE)
YDE is the youth wing of the European Party.We embrace the key role of democratic principles, underlined in the Lisbon Treaty and shrined in our political belief: democracy, freedom, equality, participation, sustainability and solidarity.

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