Will the EU-Turkish deal put an end to the flow of refugees towards Europe?

Stella Georgiadou takes a close look at what EU-Turkey refugee deal can tell us about the European Union’s approach to the refugee crisis.

The war in Syria has created the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Population displacements have become very regular with an unprecedented number of people fleeing their home country. Although a large number of Syrian refugees ended up in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan, many of them tried to reach Europe with the hope for a better future.

What is the European Union’s solution to the Syrian refugee crisis?

So, how is the European Union responding to this situation? What is the European Union’s solution to the Syrian refugee crisis? Since the beginning of the crisis, EU officials have highlighted the importance of addressing the underlying causes of the problem and stressed the need to stop the war in Syria so that people will not have the need to migrate elsewhere. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stressed that the EU needs to address the roots of the crisis and find long-term solutions to the problem through putting an end to the wars that caused so many people to leave their countries. Similarly, Tusk, the President of the European Council, stated “we have to find more effective and sustainable ways to help those in need. Solving the conflict in Syria and elsewhere is essential for any lasting solution”.


Despite the determination that such official communications demonstrate, the EU has been struggling to adopt a coherent approach and to form a response to the refugee crisis. Rather, the EU keeps muddling through the crisis, trying to draft plans and to find a common ground between its member states. The EU-Turkey Refugee deal is the latest attempt to deal with the refugee crisis. More specifically, the agreement includes the following key elements:

  • Refugees coming illegally to Greece will be send back to Turkey.

  • The one-for-one provision: for each irregular migrant Turkey takes back, the EU will take one Syrian from Turkey.

  • Turkey will receive a substantial amount of money (€3 bn)

  • Turkey’s EU candidacy: negotiations on the accession of Turkey will be re-energized.

  • The accomplishment of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens will be speeded. All Turkish nationals will be able to travel freely in the Schengen zone.

The EU-Turkey Refugee Deal is merely dealing with the symptoms of the Refugee Crisis


Having in mind the provisions of the  EU-Turkey Refugee deal, it seems that the EU’s most immediate concern is its domestic environment. In other words, what is hoped to be achieved through the successful implementation of this deal is a reduction in the number of irregular migrants coming to Europe and a better protection of the Schengen area and the Union’s external borders. The deal will also buy some time for the EU to address its internal divisions over the issue at hand. The EU member states’ varied reactions to the crisis highlighted the lack of coherence within the Union and the prioritization of national interests.

The first question to be asked is whether this deal will indeed curtail the flow of irregular migration? Based on past experiences, one can conclude that it will not. As Despina Syrri put it, “illegal migrants are like water. When one channel is blocked, they find another”. In September 2015 when Hungary set up a fence along its border with Serbia, migrants followed another route through Croatia. Closing one entry point will lead the migrants to follow other, perhaps more dangerous, routes to Europe.

The second question to be asked is whether this deal is consistent with the EU’s declared aim to address the underlying causes of the problem. This deal includes containment measures and is focused on the resettlement of the refugees. However, it does not address one particularly important aspect of the issue: that it is the on-going war in Syria and the consequent security concerns that prompt people to migrate. The deal, therefore, does not address the underlying causes of the crisis. This can only be achieved through long-term constructive engagement and more intensive diplomatic measures.

The refugee crisis has brought to the forefront questions about the EU’s ability to effectively and constructively deal with crises. What the EU-Turkey refugee deal highlights is that the EU is focusing on finding short-term solutions that address the immediate consequences of the problem. However, the Union, up until now, has failed to devise long-term strategies suitable for addressing the root causes of the problem.

Will the EU-Turkish deal put an end to the flow of refugees towards Europe? Let us hear your perspectives! 

Stella Georgiadou is a Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Politics at the University of Sussex. Her research interests fall within the wider areas of comparative politics and EU politics. Her current...

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