“The role of Turkey” 27/11/2017

The fifth lecture entitled “The Role of Turkey” was successfully held on November 27, 2017, in the framework of the educational seminar “European Management of Migration in the Eastern Mediterranean: The EU, Turkey and Greece.” 

Mr Panagiotis Tsakonas Professor at the University of the Aegean and President of the Board of Directors of the Center for Security Studies mentioned in his presentation that the phenomenon of migration is the product of processes and developments in the North African and Middle East region that will remain in the region for many years to come. Turkey plays a key state role in the region not only for migration but also for other issues in order to manage its position and develop policies in its interest. As Mr. Tsakonas explained, the EU took on the pressures of migration and turned them into policies but the burden of management eventually transferred to the frontline states. Concerning the EU-Turkey Aggreement, Mr. Tsaconas described it as an example of “off-shore management” of the refugee crisis, while the EU chooses to set up reception and identification centers outside its borders for the safe transfer of refugees to Member States. In general, thanks to this agreement refugee flows have been limited, but the results of management remain poor.

Mr. Manolis Kostidis, journalist at SKAI channel and Eleftheros Typos newspaper referred to the fact that the EU-Turkey dialogue and discussions on the migration crisis are still continuing, despite any problems arising, as Turkey has made the crisis a negotiating issue. In search for the reasons, Mr Kostidis referred to Turkey’s intention to play a significant role in Syria, while at the same time facing a refugee flow of 5.5 million refugees. Today there are about 3.5 million refugees in the country and only 227,000 of them in the 20 existing camps. Referring to the EU-Turkey Agreement, Mr. Kostidis stressed the positive results for both sides, as refugee flows were reduced and the issue of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens to the EU emerged as a “key”. as it is a matter of direct concern to the Turkish side due to the 2019 Presidential elections.

Mr. Dimitris Varouxakis, Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Coast Guard, presented the role of the Coast Guard and its cooperation with the Turkish Coast Guard. The key role of the Coast Guard lies in its full policing competence as it brings traffickers to justice and disrupts criminal networks.

The information collected is also sent to the other Member States through EU cooperation procedures. Moreover, protection of human life without discrimination is the priority of the Coast Guard. Most importantly, however, the maritime field is not an appropriate field for managing refugee flows and protecting human life because of the dangers that arise. 

 Finally, Mr. Varouxakis stressed that following the implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement, the Turkish coastguard has stepped up its operational action and this is also reflected in the statistics, which of course does not mean that there is not much room for improvement. 

As noted by the last speaker, Mr. Efstathios Poularakis, lawyer and advocate for the rights of “Doctors of the World” – Greece, Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world, 50% of which are children. Mr. Poularakis referred to the temporary and international protection provided by the neighboring country, while analyzing whether it fulfills the legal requirements to be considered a safe third country. In particular, he focused on Turkey’s geographical restriction on the Geneva Convention, which deprives non-European populations of the opportunity to become refugees. As a consequence, he added, Syrian refugees can only be granted temporary protection, which proves to be fragile since it could be revoked by a simple decree. Concluding, Mr. Poularakis described the implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement as unsuccessful and considers it to be part of the wider policy of deterrence adopted by the EU. on the management of the 2015 refugee crisis.

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