Nearly five years after a deal struck by the European Union for Turkey to contain refugees and migrants – which didn’t work and saw scores of thousands land on Greek islands – Germany is reportedly trying to rework it.
The German business newspaper Handelsblatt said Germany and Turkey are in private talks to revise the agreement – bypassing Greece although it’s holding more than 100,000 refugees and migrants, most on the mainland.
Those negotiations are going on as Greek and Turkish officials were set to meet for a 62nd round of exploratory talks, those aimed at trying to settle differences over competing claims to the Aegean and East Mediterranean.
The EU is also going to take up – and likely to set aside – Greece’s demands for sanctions over Turkey planning to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands, the bloc’s leaders meeting March 25.
Turkey is also expected to use that meeting to push its own agenda amid worries over what the EU can do if Greece and Turkey don’t come to terms over the seas, which could lead to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again opening the gates to flood Greece, mostly through its islands, with more refugees and migrants.
Turkey has been upset that the EU is holding back 3 billion euros ($3.58 billion) in aid from a 6 billion euro promise and hasn’t granted visa-free status to Turkish citizens to travel within the bloc nor sped up talks for Turkey’s entry.
Other Turkish demands, the paper said, include an expansion of the customs agreement, overriding Greek objections and with Germany – home to some 2.775 million people of Turkish origins – a major arms supplier to Turkey.
Turkey also reportedly wants more control over how EU funding for refugees is used – which could put the money in Erdogan’s hands even more – and a meeting in July over migration, where Turkey wants to present.
Citing Greek diplomatic sources, Handelsblatt said that negotiations between Germany and Turkey, leaving Greece out of the loop, has caused mixed feelings in Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s government.