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Finns Party: Hard to imagine Turkey living up to obligations

Kotimaa
 
Helsingin Sanomat
Simon Elo: Hard to imagine Turkey living up to obligations
Simon Elo: Hard to imagine Turkey living up to obligations
Finns Party MP Simon Elo says it's difficult to imagine that Turkey would live up to obligations on democracy, human rights and press freedoms in time to win visa-free access to Schengen countries by the summer. Elo makes the comments on the new episode of HSTV's English-language current affairs show Newsmakers, giving his thoughts on the new deal between the EU and Turkey to try and solve the migrant crisis.

Finns Party MP Simon Elo says it's difficult to imagine that Turkey would live up to obligations on democracy, human rights and press freedoms in time to win visa-free access to Schengen countries by the summer.

Elo makes the comments on the new episode of HSTV's English-language current affairs show Newsmakers.

"If you look at the current development of the Erdogan government in Turkey, it doesn't seem to me that they would be meeting that criteria" says the politician. "If you look at the timetable it's quite tight, so it's hard to see they would do it" he adds.

A new deal struck between the European Union and Turkey would see any migrants arriving on the shores of Greece, returned to Turkey. For every returned migrant, the EU would take one Syrian from a refugee camp in Turkey, up to a maximum of 72,000 people in a year. Additionally, the EU will give Turkey up to €6 billion towards running refugee camps within Turkey.

The Turks would also get fresh talks on EU-accession and visa free access for their 75 million citizens to the Schengen countries - which include Finland - if it makes reforms across a range of governance and civic society issues.

Elo calls Turkey "the most important partner we have" on the migrant issue. But he stops short of endorsing the Muslim-majority nation for full EU membership.

"I think it's beneficial for Finland and the European Union to keep Turkish government close to us, to some extent, not necessarily a member of the European Union, but close to us so that we can strike deals like this" he explains.

The Finns Party's Elo concedes the deal is better than he at first envisaged, as it restricts the new asylum and resettlement policy only to Syrians, and not migrants from other countries.

"I think this deal is actually better than I was expecting, because the general idea is that all of those people who are not Syrians or special cases if you will, would be sent back to Turkey, because Turkey is a secure country as EU sees it". In theory says Elo, there will be a massive reduction in migrants travelling to Finland to claim asylum. In 2015, around 32,000 migrants came to Finland seeking asylum.

Turning to domestic issues, Elo says remarks made by a Finns Party local-level politician this week are "totally unacceptable".

Terhi Kiemunki wrote some disparaging comments on social media about immigrant children going trick-or-treating, and questioning why Muslims would take part in this Finnish Easter time tradition.

Although Elo dismisses accusations that members of his party are seemingly the only politicians making comments with racist or xenophobic undertones, he says that any children "regardless of their ethnicity" should be "able to spend Easter as they will, and go door-to-door if they will and that's the beauty of our country".

In the past year, the Finns Party's popularity has slumped in the polls. They secured the second highest number of MPs in parliament at the 2015 general election, but now languish around 10% in opinion polls.

"You can drop like a stone but you can always come up like a rocket. That's what we've done in the past and I think that's what we'll do again" says Elo, blaming in part the migrant crisis for making life difficult for the government coalition.

"Over a hundred asylum centres opened in one year. Of course people get quite furious, and rightfully so [...] it would play to us if we were in opposition".

Taking a pragmatic approach to being in government, Elo played down cuts to education - "in percentage, it's still a small cut and not as bad as the student unions arguing it to be" - but stressed that the economy was in "a really bad shape, worse than many people still seem to understand".

He says the Finnish people "have to acknowledge" that the country cannot go on adding debt through borrowing, and must continue to make tough cuts.

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