Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, breathed a palpable sigh of relief after the European Union and Turkey secured a controversial strategy at a summit on March 17-18 to stem the stream of undocumented migrants through the Balkans. Turkey agreed to send one Syrian refugee to Europe for permanent resettlement in exchange for accepting the return of a migrant entering Greece by crossing the Aegean.
EU leaders are willing to admit up to 72,000 Syrians under this scheme as from 2016. The EU will also give €6 billion in aid – around €2 billion a year – to Turkey and has undertaken to accelerate procedures for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens through the Schengen area by the end of June.
Merkel’s relief may be short-lived, however. This agreement is fraught with potential difficulties. To begin with, its legality is questionable given that Turkey does not officially extend to non-European citizens the protections afforded by the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.