The Council of the European Union will meet on Friday 20th of May to discuss once again issues related to the ongoing migratory crises. No provisional agenda has been provided so far but it is expected that discussions will gravitate around the following two main issues: the EU-Turkey agreement and it’s current state of play as well as updates on the progress for a European border guard as proposed by the Commission late last year.
The EU-Turkey agreement which came into effect on 20 March 2016, allows the return of irregular migrants entering Greek territory from Turkey. This agreement’s current legal framework is based on the bilateral readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey but it is expected to be succeeded by a fully fledged EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, which has been fast-tracked in order to enter into force on 1 June 2016 instead of the originally foreseen 1 October 2017.
The European Commission published the first progress report on the agreement on 20 April 2016 and stated that as many as 1,292 migrants were returned to Turkey under the bilateral (Greece-Turkey) readmission agreement. The report also takes stock of the “one for one” resettlement programme which , in simple terms, aims to relocate one Syrian asylum-seeker stranded in Turkey for every Syrian migrant returned from Greece. Taking into account the commitments by the Member States during the summer of 2015 as well as additional future arrangements, the Commission hopes to relocate around 70,800 asylum-seekers under various schemes. However the EU Council did not agree on any new quotas for relocation recently and thus only 16,800 places were available as stated by the Commission last month.
The EU-Turkey agreement came under heavy criticism recently, not only from humanitarian organisations but also from the European Parliament. According to the legal services of the European Parliament, the agreement does not conform to international standards although it does conform to EU law. The fact that many EU institutions now refer to the agreement as a “statement” is very relevant in legal terms, because the European Parliament is obliged to sign international agreements under the co-decision procedures. Liberal Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikstroem concluded at a recent Parliamentary Committee meeting that:
“Before they called it an “agreement” but now they call it a “statement” […] They now realise that if this was an indeed a binding agreement between EU and Turkey, in an area where this parliament has co-decision, namely migration and budget, then the parliament also a constitutional obligation to either accept or reject this agreement.”