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EU Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos: Turkey Making Progress

Refugees on Lesvos. Photo © UNHCR/A.Zavallis

Refugees on Lesvos. Photo © UNHCR/A.Zavallis

The European Union and Turkey are determined to work together to maintain the March agreement said EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos from Ankara earlier today where he is on an official visit.

The 28-nation bloc’s migration commissioner said that Turkey was making progress towards securing visa-free travel entitlements soon, but added that Ankara still has a number of requirements to meet.

EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik did however reiterate Turkey’s stance that if the EU does not proceed with its part of the deal – namely to offer Turkish nationals visa-free travel within the Schengen Zone – it will pull out of the agreement to do its part and curb the flows of refugees leaving from Turkey to Greece for Europe. 

Dimitris Avramopoulos, Tourism Development Minister

Meanwhile, in an interview to Reuters, Avramopoulos said the Commission would put forth new proposals to interior ministers at an emergency meeting on September 14.

Avramopoulos will push for the acceleration in response to a rise in arrivals in Greece over the last month while member states argued over how to share the load, rejecting in June binding quotas for taking people in.

“The majority of countries … want to contribute,” he told Reuters.

Avramopoulos appeared optimistic that EU governments would drop objections to an asylum-seekers distribution system proposed in May.

According to Reuters, the Commission pilot plan suggests relocating 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU states and taking in 20,000 refugees from abroad. Once that is successfully in place, Avramopoulos said, a permanent system would be implemented.

“Some countries that were a bit reluctant … have changed their mind because now they realize that this problem is not the problem of other countries but theirs as well.”

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