How to Read the EU-Turkey Deal on Refugees

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The rise of the strategic logic in Turkey-EU relations can be clearly observed in the latest deal on refugees that the parties reached last week in Brussels. Given that Turkey’s relations with the European Union have been dormant for a long period of time since the early 2010s, it is worth celebrating that Turkey and the EU have finally decided to open a new page in their bilateral relations, however much this owes its existence to an issue that does not directly concern Turkey’s Europeanization efforts alongside the accession process. Even though strategic security concerns have been a part of the decades-long Turkey-EU relations, the exposure of the EU to the growing influx of Syrian refugees has once again underpinned the vitality of this dimension to Turkey’s European vocation.


Despite the fact that the deal also contains some provisions as regards the revitalization of the EU-Turkey accession process, worth noting is that the underlying motivation behind the deal stems from a strategic need on the part of Turkey and the European Union to find a common solution to the ongoing influx of refugees emanating from the war zone geographies in the Greater Middle East region, most notably Syria. As part of the deal, Turkey agreed to readmit the Syrian refugees back to Turkey who might try to reach the EU countries through Greece from March 20, 2016, onwards. On the other hand, the EU members pledged that they would take in one Syrian refugee in return for one Syrian refugee that Turkey receives back.


Turkey will be provided around six billion Euros to manage this process; one additional chapter will be opened in the slow-moving accession negotiations and the visas for Turkish citizens to enter the Schengen zone inside the EU will be lifted should Turkey meet the 72-item criteria by the end of June 2016. It is quite obvious that the goal on the part of the EU is to secure Turkey’s cooperation on this issue by helping relieve the burden on Turkey’s shoulders.


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