'Turkey and EU make refugees a matter of bargaining - a violation of int'l treaties'

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The refugee projects will be financed by the EU and the money will not enter Turkey’s treasury, Yasar Yakis, former Foreign Minister and a former ambassador to the UN Office in Vienna, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, told RT.

RT: Why do you think that the "one in, one out" Turkish-EU refugee plan isn’t feasible? Who stands to benefit from this plan? 

Yasar Yakıs: Both sides are going to benefit, but Turkey was in a position where it couldn’t do anything else but ask the cooperation of the European countries. Theoretically, one may think of a scenario whereby the EU could have closed their doors and not let any refugee coming from Turkey. Turkey, by trying to cooperate with the EU and with the initiative taken by Angela Merkel, at least they decided to share the responsibility of Turkey, open the doors, but of course with certain conditions, and this condition is “one in, one out.” But this doesn’t solve several problems that will entail such a decision. One of them is that the refugees who do not come from Syria, who come from distant countries, Afghanistan and the other countries, why on earth would Turkey accept them if they are already in European Union countries to receive also the refugees coming from the third countries… In my opinion, the deal shouldn’t have covered the refugees originating from countries other than Syria.

Second, since this Syrian crisis we do not see any light at the end of the tunnel; the Syrian crisis will continue for some time. Therefore, if there is nobody readmitted from Greece, the EU will be entitled to refuse any additional refugees coming from Turkey and going to the European Union countries, whereas Turkey will continue to receive refugees from Syria...  

Third, the EU will receive refugees on the basis of a selection. That is to say, Syrian refugees having arrived in Turkey will submit their demand to be admitted as a refugee in the EU countries, and the EU countries will look at the qualification of the person. If they agree to receive, they will receive. It means they will receive educated and skilled people, and those who are not skilled and educated, they will remain in Turkey. For these reasons, it will work against Turkey’s interests in the long run.

RT: During the Brussels summit, ministers are also going to debate doubling the deal for the refugee crisis to €6 billion. Turkey was earlier accused of “blackmailing” and “holding the EU to ransom”, for example by UKIP's Farage, Hungary's Orban, by demanding money to stop the flood of migrants. How do you view such accusations?

YY: First of all, there are restrictions stemming from the international documents, international treaties, which forbid to make the life of the refugees a question of bargaining. What Turkey and the EU are doing is a violation of the international treaties that all the European countries have signed, and also Turkey has signed. This is one thing.

Secondly, the money that was allocated to Turkey will not be paid to Turkey. Turkey will have to submit to the EU projects. These projects will be financed by the EU - the money will not enter the Turkey’s treasury. There is another difficulty there. And if it is not spent in conformity with the EU relations, then the EU will be entitled to stop the payment.

RT: You said that certain EU member countries may find excuses not to implement the visa-free travel agreement with Turkey. Why do you think so?  Why do you think the plan has been stalling so far? Who is being insincere here, Turkey or the EU?

YY: Both sides are sincere, but there are of course always of escaping ways for not abiding by the promise. There are two reasons for that. One is the number of the conditions that the EU put in order to start the negotiations. There were 72 conditions that Turkey had to fulfill, and 19 of them were fully fulfilled until recently. And something like 7 of them there was no progress at all. Now we have to see, whether Turkey will be fully compliant with all the 72 conditions.

Secondly, many countries were reluctant and they agreed to the deal only upon the pressure coming from Germany, and they will find other excuses in order not to abide by it. Greek Cypriots may be one of them. There are a lot of EU countries that are not satisfied with Turkey’s human rights records – fundamental rights of freedom. And they say that Turkey should not be given such concessions. 

Thirdly, there are countries like France, who say that a refugee deal is one thing, Turkish accession process is another thing. Both of these two things should be assessed, evolve, and should continue to function according to their own rule without interacting between themselves. 

RT: Is Turkey ready to accept even more migrants in exchange for visa-free regime with the EU and some  ‎€6 billion? Or maybe Europe will see the price tag rising, as Turkey keeps asking for money?

YY: The EU is not monolith, which means that they do not speak with the same language – all of them, 28. They all have different views, which differ slightly form the others. Many countries are looking for excuses, either for not giving money, or for abiding by these international treaties, which bans making the refugee deal a question of bargaining between the sending countries and receiving countries .

Thirdly, for the political reasons, like Greek Cypriots and other countries, as well, they are looking for excuses not to let Turkey’s accession process to the EU to continue. It cannot continue forever. It will be due to the two reasons stemming from Turkey, or stemming from the EU.

RT: Turkey says it's fighting terrorists in its Kurdish areas, but human rights groups are concerned that civilians are being killed in the crackdown. Do you think civilian causalities can be are justified by the fight against terror?   

YY: For me no civilian causalities are justified. You have to take from the standpoint of a family, who sent their 22-year-old son to the military service, and this young man is fighting there. If you ask this family: “Do you agree that this fight against Kurds should continue, but you may also lose your son?” Most probably in many cases he will say: “No, I want my son! I want that my son’s life should not be given away in exchange of something, which is beyond my family’s concern. Of course, there are also some families in Turkey that say ‘for the security of my country I will sacrifice my son.’ But the majority will say ‘no.’   

RT: Has Turkey's international reputation suffered due to its crackdown on Kurds in Diyarbakir, Cizre etc.? And has Erdogan chosen the right strategy here?

YY: Turkey’s human rights record is going down. Turkey lost a lot of altitude in its international relations. Erdogan’s policy on the crackdown - I have to take it from the beginning. I appreciated it very much President Erdogan’s initiative to solve this Kurdish problem – at that time it was called ‘democratization project’ – so this was a very courageous, bold decision taken by President Erdogan… It is a pity now that this process has collapsed. I wish that Turkey should find one way of resuming the negotiations and continue this process…

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.