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18. 3. 2016 22:50

Czech Republic endorses EU pact with Turkey to stall illegal migration

European Council session, 18 March 2016. Source: European Union.
European Council session, 18 March 2016. Source: European Union.
EU leaders today struck an agreement with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that will pave the way for all illegal migrants to be deported from the Greek islands back to Turkey, starting on 20 March 2016. This accord sets out to staunch the flow of illegal migration into the EU and smash the business network of smuggling gangs. Adherence to the agreement will be monitored on a monthly basis by both the EU and Turkey.

The Czech Republic has put its weight behind the EU’s pact with Turkey as it has the potential to change the current course of the migration crisis. “As of Sunday, the practice where gangs of smugglers guide hundreds of illegal migrants to the Greek islands on a daily basis will be no more. Those migrants will now be sent back to Turkey. The Czech Republic fully supported the agreement that has been reached”, said Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who represented the Czech Republic at the European Council’s two-day session.

The Czech Republic successfully pushed for several priority paragraphs to be inserted in the final agreement with Turkey and included in the European Council’s conclusions. First and foremost, there was confirmation that the deal with Turkey would not impose any new commitments on Member States regarding relocation and resettlement. The commitment on visa liberalisation between the EU and Turkey holds good only if all applicable terms and conditions are met. “The level playing field for all candidates for visa-free contact with the EU, including Ukraine and Georgia, remains in place,” explained Prime Minister Sobotka. Another issue that the Czech Republic campaigned for in the European Council’s conclusions was respect for human rights and freedom of expression in Turkey. Here, again, it achieved its aim. The Czech Republic, backed by the V4 countries, also successfully argued that assistance for the countries of the Western Balkans as they seek to control illegal migration should be included in the text.

Today’s agreement has brought us closer to a solution for the migration crisis. Europe and Turkey have today taken a big step forwards in tackling smugglers, curbing illegal migration and coping with migratory pressures,” said Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka after the meeting.

The two-day European Council kicked off with yesterday’s debate on economic themes, which saw EU leaders discuss how to boost economic growth against the background of the European Semester. The European Council also grappled with the VAT system. In the course of this discussion, it applauded the European Commission’s plan to put forward a proposal that would hand Member States greater flexibility when it comes to introducing a reduced value added tax rate. “The door is ajar for us to reduce VAT on nappies, which is one of my Government’s priorities,” said Prime Minister Sobotka.

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