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EAR-AER board member Louis Delcart was invited by the Brussels School of Governance to attend a conference at the VUB Campus called “Avenues of Cooperation between the European Union and Turkey in the Area of Migration”. The conference was organized by the above mentioned VUB School in cooperation with the Brussels-based Dialogue for Europe (DfE) and with the support of the Ankara-based European Union and Global Research organization (ABKAD), who also delivered one of the keynote speakers, prof. Hatice Yazgan, ABKAD’s secretary-general. Interesting contributions came also from Dr. Tuba Bircan, assistant prof at the department of sociology of the VUB, of Dr. Koert Debeuf, editor of EUObserver and associate researcher at the VUB and of M. Samuel Vesterbye, managing director of the European Neighbourhood Council.

The conference started with a very high qualified contribution of M. Selim Kuneralp, former Turkish ambassador to the EU, who stated clearly that the accession of Turkey to the EU is nowadays not a realistic prospect anymore and that the reluctance of the EU towards the access of as well Turkey as the Western Balkan countries contributes to a moving away of the EU leverage and a strong reduction of influence for EU values in that part of the world. He pleads therefore to go back to the mind-set of the creation of the Custom Union between the EU and Turkey in 1995 and to enlarge that Union to services, agriculture and procurement, areas that were omitted in the originally negotiated agreement. Moreover, he pleads for a joint effort of the EU countries and Turkey to create a defence alternative within NATO, since it became clear after the Trump experience and the Afghanistan debacle, that the US is not eager anymore to take the defence of all NATO countries in case of foreign aggression.

The other speakers tacked especially the cooperation in the field of migration. This last topic became an important pillar in the EU-Turkey relations. On the other hand, it also led to populist discourse against “migrants” and increasing fear against “the other” in most EU countries. Combined with the terrorist threat and preoccupations about possible job losses, the phenomenon of migration largely contributed to the rise of right-wing parties in the EU. Speaker Koert Debeuf made it clear that this atmosphere of fear has been largely supported and enhanced by Russia in an attempt to weaken European cohesion. Presentations by the other speakers gave an overview of research made about the integration of refugees (especially Syrian) in Turkey and the EU, about the root causes of migration and its possible societal effects, about new challenges caused by the Afghan crisis, about the EU-Turkey migration deal and future relations between both partners.

DfE, in partnership with ABKAD, is currently implementing a project called “Strengthening Dialogue between the EU and Turkey in the Area of Migration and Security”. The project is funded by the EU under the “Supporting Civil Society Dialogue Between EU and Turkey Grant Scheme”, the same scheme that allowed EAR-AER also to collaborate with  ERSIAD in the framework of the “Improvement of Women Entrepreneurship with the EU” project of 2019-2020.