Under the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees, any refugees or migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey after 20 March 2016 face being returned to Turkey unless they apply for asylum in Greece and their applications are accepted. In return, the EU has undertaken to accept Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and will provide financial assistance to Ankara and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and fast-track accession negotiations.

However, Ahmet Davutoğlu warned last week that Turkey will not be obliged to honour the agreement if the EU fails to lift visa restrictions by June. Brussels has responded by saying that Turkey fully meets only 19 of the 72 criteria for visa liberalisation; Ankara has today countered by stating that it will meet all the criteria by the beginning of May.

In view of the above, will the Commission say:

What stage has Turkey reached in complying with the criteria for visa liberalisation?

If it does not finally meet the criteria by June and visa restrictions are therefore not lifted, what will be the fate of the agreement?

Is there a correlation between cash payments and the return of refugees?

Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission

The Commission refers the Honourable Member to the Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap, published on 4 May 2016(1), and to the Second Report on the progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, published on 15 June 2016(2).

The Commission, in close cooperation with Member States and Turkey, will further speed up the disbursement of the allocated EUR 3 billion for 2016 and 2017 under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. This is funding for refugees and not funding for Turkey. The support aims to improve living conditions, health and education services as well as economic perspectives of refugees in Turkey as part of the EU's comprehensive approach to addressing the refugee crisis inside and outside the EU.

The Commission will continue to support Turkey in its efforts to fulfil the remaining benchmarks of the visa liberalisation roadmap.

(1) COM(2016)0278 final.
(2) COM(2016)0349 final.