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Concerns Grow About Turkey-EU Agreement

  • Dorian Jones

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker (R) greet each other after a news conference following a EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, Belgium, Nov. 29, 2015.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker (R) greet each other after a news conference following a EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, Belgium, Nov. 29, 2015.

Human rights groups and opposition parties in Turkey are expressing concern over a multi-billion-euro deal reached Sunday between Ankara and the European Union to stem migrant flows.

EU and Turkish leaders described the sealing of the deal over migrants as historic.

Ankara committed itself to help stem the influx of refugees into the European Union in exchange for money and help with its bid to join the 28-country bloc, along with the promise of visa liberalization.

Rights group concerned

There is concern, however, especially among human rights groups, that the deal could be more about expediency than principle, says Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for Amnesty International.

"The accession process has been hugely beneficial for human rights situation in Turkey overall; but, also, the European Union needs to make sure there is scrutiny on human rights issues like freedom of expression and there has been enough of that. But also it should not shy away from criticism of Turkey on these issues, with the aim of striking a deal with Turkey to prevent refugees coming to the EU; that would be incredibly craven approach," said Gardner.

FILE - Refugees and migrants try to reach the shore on the Greek island of Lesbos, despite a rough sea, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, Oct. 30, 2015.

FILE - Refugees and migrants try to reach the shore on the Greek island of Lesbos, despite a rough sea, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, Oct. 30, 2015.

Freedom of expression at risk

Concerns over the deterioration of human rights in Turkey was a factor in why Ankara’s bid had become frozen.

Only days before Sunday’s deal was struck, two prominent Turkish journalists were jailed for reporting on alleged government arms smuggling to Syria. Their jailing sparked international condemnation.

Can Dundar, right, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, left, the paper's Ankara representative, speak to the media outside a courthouse in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 26, 2015.

Can Dundar, right, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, left, the paper's Ankara representative, speak to the media outside a courthouse in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 26, 2015.

Turkey’s opposition parties have also joined in criticizing the deal with the EU.

The main pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party declared the agreement marked the end of the Copenhagen criteria, which sets out the human rights requirements to join the EU.

Questions are being raised as to whether Turkey can even become Europe’s gatekeeper, says political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul’s Suleyman Sah University.

Gatekeeper role

"This is a pipe dream; this is the most cynical deal. No one can control a human influx if people feel insecure. The only way is that if you are North Korea, with three lines of barbed wire and with mines. This is only way to control a human influx," said Aktar.

All parties to the deal are seeking to put a positive spin on it, with talk of a new era in relations between Turkey and the European Union; but, observers say with deep distrust on both sides, there is skepticism over how effective the agreement will be.

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