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Executive Summary for May 3rd

We review the recent issues related to refugees, including the E.U. decision to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, Hungary’s referendum on E.U. refugee quotas and UNHCR’s decision to appoint Cate Blanchett as goodwill ambassador.

Published on May 3, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

E.U. to Grant Visa-Free Travel to Turkish Citizens

The European Union is set to propose legislation on Wednesday that would grant Turkish citizens visa-free tourist travel to all 28 of its member states.

In exchange, Turkey will continue to negotiate the terms of the refugee deal with the E.U. to help stem the flow of refugees from its borders to European countries. Last month, Turkey threatened to walk away from negotiations on the deal if the new visa laws were not passed.

“This is a great opportunity for Europe to show it is a reliable partner and make it clear that they don’t apply double standards when it comes to predominantly Muslim European nations such as Turkey,” a government official in Ankara said.

Several E.U. member states have expressed their disagreement with this new policy. But E.U. officials said their decision came after Turkey, which two weeks ago had passed only half the necessary benchmarks, had met the majority of criteria necessary for this last-minute legislation.

“Turkey has made a lot of efforts over the past weeks and days to meet the criteria, including, for example … on access to the labor market for non-Syrian refugees,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said on Monday.

On Tuesday, Turkey announced that it would abolish visa restrictions for all E.U. citizens, including Greek Cypriots, a major requirement to secure the E.U. legislation. Turkey does not – and will not – recognize the country of Cyprus, which has been divided between the Turkish-controlled north and the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south for more than four decades.

“With this decree, Turkey has fulfilled one more of the important benchmarks for visa liberalization,” European Commission spokesman Margaritas Schinas said at a daily briefing in Brussels.

However, a second source close to the negotiations told Reuters that Turkey was unlikely to meet all 72 legal and technical criteria it needs to pass the legislation by Wednesday.

Hungary Approves Referendum on E.U. Refugee Quotas

The Hungarian prime minister’s office announced on Tuesday that the Supreme Court has approved a request to hold a referendum in the fall debating whether or not the country would adhere to any European Union-enforced quotas for resettling refugees.

Hungarian nationals will be asked to answer this question: “Do you want the E.U., even without the approval of [the] Hungarian parliament, to be able to prescribe the mandatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary?”

The majority of E.U. member governments have agreed to a proposal that would see the redistribution of roughly 160,000 refugees around all 28 member states. Hungary and Slovakia have already launched a court challenge against the E.U. proposal.

UNHCR Appoints Cate Blanchett as Goodwill Ambassador

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appointed Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett as global goodwill ambassador on Monday.

The announcement came just as Blanchett was finishing up a trip to Jordan, where she met with several Syrian refugee families and discussed the perilous journey they had undergone to flee their war-torn homeland.

“There has never been a more crucial time to stand with refugees and show solidarity. We are living through an unprecedented crisis, and there must be shared responsibility worldwide,” Blanchett said in a UNHCR press release. “It feels like we’re at a fork in the road, do we go down the compassionate path or do we go down the path of intolerance?”

Blanchett has been working on raising awareness for the refugee crisis for more than a year. She has also represented UNHCR at a Women in the World Conference where she moderated a panel discussing the refugee crisis.

UNHCR’s goodwill ambassadors act as the public face of the organization. Actress Angelina Jolie served in this position for a decade before being appointed special envoy of high commissioner Antonio Guterres.

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