EU-Turkey agreement, one year later: lack of information blockading accountability

Madrid, 18 March 2017 – On the first anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal, Access Info called for greater transparency of the decision making process of the agreement and condemned the inadequate record keeping and misleading statements.

One year after concluding the agreement, stranded asylum seekers, human rights and humanitarian organisations, and the general public, are still denied even the most basic information about this agreement, including who is really responsible for it.

Confusion increased on 1 March 2017 when the European Court of Justice ruled that the statement (press release) was “regrettably ambiguous” because in fact the agreement is between each EU Member State and Turkey. The Court found that the EU heads of state switched hats during the negotiations and acted as individual countries rather than as joint leaders of the European Union.

Read our analysis of the ECJ’s Order on the EU-Turkey agreement here »

Data analysed by Access Info shows that in spite of this temporary change of roles during the negotiations with Turkey, at least 7 of the heads of state participating in the meeting tweeted about it being an “EU-Turkey Agreement” when it was announced.

The framing of the deal as an EU decision lead to 23 of Europe’s 30 leading newspapers reporting that this was an “agreement” between the EU and Turkey.

Even in Access Info’s ongoing case against the European Commission to obtain documents containing legal advice about the deal

[1], the confusion persists; the Commission’s lawyers are arguing that the secrecy of the legal advice is necessary to protect the EU’s international relations, as if it were indeed an agreement forged by the EU itself rather than the individual Member States.

Press releases that amount to fake news coupled with seriously deficient record keeping are unacceptable in the context of an historically momentous decision that directly affects the lives and human rights of thousands of people,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

In addition to this, there is still no clarity on whether the EU-Turkey Statement is nothing but a press release, or if can produce legally-binding effects. All that we know is that there is no actual text of the agreement: when in March 2016 Access Info researchers asked for a copy we discovered that no such document existed!

As an organisation with a strategic focus on the transparency of decision-making processes, Access Info Europe will continue its investigations in order to shine a light on how the decision on the EU-Turkey agreement was really arrived at and who has legal responsibility for its direct impacts on individual asylum seekers. To this end, are working with civil society organisations and investigative journalists, and submitting further access to documents requests.

For more information, please contact:

Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
Send an e-mail or call +34 913 656 558

Notes:

[1] In December 2016, Access Info Europe took the European Commission to the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union to obtain copies of its analysis of how the EU-Turkey agreement complies with international humanitarian and human rights law. More information about the case is available here.

Photo: CAFOD Photo Library via Flick (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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