German Government: There Is ‘No Plan B’ That Would Establish Greece As A Refugee Center
The German government has denied reports of a backup “Plan B” that would establish Greece as a refugee center, should the controversial “refugee swap” deal between the European Union and Turkey fall apart.
The news comes after last week’s resignation of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, leaving the future of the deal solely in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, viewed as far less liberal in outlook than the outgoing premier.
On Monday, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported that a “Plan B” is secretly in the making as an increasingly strained relationship between Europe and Turkey adds uncertainty over the future of the controversial E.U.-Turkey agreement. That accord granted 6 million euro ($683,000) in funding and the promise of visa liberalization in exchange for Turkey’s help with the migrant crisis.
The report claimed that E.U. states are considering an alternative plan which, in the event that the E.U.-Turkey deal collapses, would involve several Greek islands being turned into central refugee registration sites. The billions of euros in aid promised to Turkey would then go to Athens instead.
The claims are being widely circulated by international news sources, despite the German government’s strong denial of any such plan existing.
“There are no grounds to doubt the further implementation of the current deal,” said a spokesman for Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière.
Of all European countries, Germany has the largest stake in the success of the E.U.-Turkey agreement, with the nation increasingly divided by last year’s estimated influx of two million migrants, and wrestling with a growing anti-Islam backlash.
It was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was instrumental in spearheading the deal in direct negotiations with Davutoğlu.
Parliamentary chair for the Greens party Katrin Göring-Eckardt acknowledged on German television last Friday that “ultimately, Mr. Davutoğlu was a reliable partner for the Europeans, and he was someone who sought to open Turkey toward Europe.”
“Obviously the same cannot be said about Mr. Erdogan,” she added.
Officially, Davutoğlu as prime minister acted as leader of the ruling party and head of the government, while the Turkish president’s role is traditionally ceremonial in nature. Erdoğan wants to change the constitution to provide for an executive presidency.
On the issue of considering a “Plan B” for the migrant crisis, CDU foreign policy expert Hans-Georg Wellmann told Deutsche Welle that while considering alternatives is entirely normal, it seemed clear that “we can’t completely and utterly rely on Turkey.”
But federal government spokesman Georg Streiter told the outlet that the agreement with Turkey “stands,” reaffirming that it would continue with or without Davutoğlu.