European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday that it will be difficult for Cyprus to extend the so-called “EU-Turkey deal”, a migrant readmission agreement that Turkey agreed with the EU in 2016.
Under the readmission agreement, Turkey has undertaken to readmit Syrian refugees arriving on Greek islands from its shores in exchange for €6 billion in European aid and the speeding up of negotiations to eliminate EU visas for Turkish citizens in June 2016.
Responding to a question about the joint initiative of Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, Avramopoulos stressed that “although the three countries encourage any co-operation initiative on migration issues, they are currently facing strong pressure”.
“Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria have received political, technical and financial assistance from the EU, which has committed to send specialised staff to aid with operations.”
In particular with regard to Cyprus, he stressed that “it is difficult to extend the EU-Turkey deal under the current circumstances, and Cyprus is not alone in feeling this way.”
Turkey’s military operation in Syria and its illegal drilling in the Cyprus EEZ were on the agenda in Brussels on Monday, when EU High Representative Federica Mogherini briefed foreign ministers on the decision to limit arms sales to Turkey.
Called to comment on Turkey’s offensive in Syria, Avramopoulos reiterated the EU’s decisions of not financing the reconstruction of the area, as the rights of the local population were being violated.
However, Avramopoulos also had words of praise for Turkey’s efforts in aiding migrants in recent years.
“Turkey has made a significant contribution to immigration and has worked hard towards achieving the objectives of the EU-Turkey deal,” he said.
“However, aiding refugees is a topic that cannot be used as a negotiating tool by Turkey, the EU will not accept it.”
Since 2015, Cyprus has spent €95.1 million on aiding refugees, while Greece has spent €2.2 billion, according to figures released by the European Commission on Wednesday.