View from Madrid: About turn

The minority caretaker government of Mariano Rajoy has been forced into a volte-face on the EU-Turkey deal by a hostile parliament

Initially, the Spanish prime minister praised the EU-Turkey deal reached on 7-8 March. But following harsh and widespread criticism in Spain on the terms of the agreement, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy backtracked from his support and described the agreement as “nonsense”. 

The key element has been the new parliament, in which Rajoy’s interim government does not have a majority. When it became evident that the three main opposition parties (Socialists, Podemos and Ciudadanos) were going to vote against the government with a comfortable majority, Spain’s Foreign Minister, García-Margallo decided to open negotiations with the main political forces so as to reach an agreement.

The result is a declaration, unanimously approved, by the Parliaments’ Committee on EU Affairs mandating the government to:

  • Reject any agreement with Turkey which establishes the possibility of concluding collective expulsions from EU countries to Turkey or any other non-member state
  • Guarantee that any expulsion to Turkey will be done on an individual basis and with full guarantees that due legal processes have been fulfilled and respected.
  • Ensure that any agreements reached with Turkey on the management of refugees include guarantees of full compliance of international human rights conventions and, in particular European asylum norms establishing the non-devolution principle, the right to refugee status and the right to protection according to the Geneva Convention.

The agreement asks for the opening of legal and safe ways to claim asylum as well as for family reunification of refugees. Additionally, it seeks compliance of EU member states with existing resettlement agreements and the upwards revision of the figures agreed last year so as to accommodate the new realities. Finally, parliament mandated the government to seek the full Europeanisation of the bloc’s asylum policy, turning it into a full European policy as well as to develop the European Asylum System.

In just a week, the Spanish government, pushed by the new parliament, has changed course. From being a silent follower of agreements reached with Turkey by others, it has become a very vocal opponent of the existing agreement and a leader in both defending existing human rights conventions as well as in putting down proposals which would improve and deepen European capacity to deal with this crisis. In line with the European Parliament, Spain is thus defending the full Europeanisation of Europe’s asylum and refugee policy. 

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.


Head, ECFR Madrid
Senior Policy Fellow

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

We will store your email address and gather analytics on how you interact with our mailings. You can unsubscribe or opt-out at any time. Find out more in our privacy notice.