EU seeking deal with Turkey over refugee crisis

Ankara wants €3bn in funds and visa reform in return for co-operation on migrants

Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the EU summit. “Most war refugees that come to Europe travel via Turkey. We won’t be able to order and stem the refugee movement without working together with Turkey,” she said. Photograph: Reuters

Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the EU summit. “Most war refugees that come to Europe travel via Turkey. We won’t be able to order and stem the refugee movement without working together with Turkey,” she said. Photograph: Reuters

 

EU leaders were on Thursday night considering a request from Turkey for greater visa liberalisation and up to €3 billion in funds, in exchange for co-operation on the refugee crisis, as the EU seeks to increase its engagement with non-EU countries in its response to the migration crisis.

With Turkey and Syria topping the agenda of Thursday’s EU summit, leaders were asked to endorse an “action plan” negotiated by EU officials in Ankara this week with Turkish president Recip Tayyip Erdogan, which would see the EU accelerate the ongoing EU-Turkish accession talks that have been stalled for years.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker presented the proposal to the summit on Thursday. It had been negotiated by commission vice president Frans Timmermans overnight in Ankara.

More than two million Syrian refugees have arrived in Turkey since the Syrian civil war began more than four years ago, with Turkey emerging as the main transit country for refugees reaching the EU.

Key partner

European CouncilDonald Tusk

Speaking ahead of her arrival in Brussels, German chancellor Angela Merkel told the German parliament that Turkey must be part of a solution to the migration problem.

“Most war refugees that come to Europe travel via Turkey. We won’t be able to order and stem the refugee movement without working together with Turkey,” she said.

syria

The German chancellor will visit Ankara on Sunday, less than two weeks before the country goes to the polls at a highly sensitive political moment.

But French president François Hollande warned against any rapid moves to lift visa requirements on Turkish citizens, warning that this should not be a precondition for helping to manage migratory flows.

“There will be a process that requires a lot of conditions,” Hollande said. Countries such as Greece and Cyprus were also expected to voice opposition to the proposal.

Letter

“Turkey, a country which is hosting more than two million Syrian refugees and for many has become a gateway to Europe, is without doubt key,” he told the 28 leaders of the EU.

“My impression from our meeting with President Erdogan last week was that Turkey cannot handle this crisis alone any more. Turkey is ready to co-operate closely.”

Speaking on his way into the summit, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that Ireland would support the opening of some pre-accession chapters for Turkey, adding that Ireland “does not have a problem” with visa liberalisation.

‘Significant numbers’

“Obviously this has implications for some other countries, and that will be a source of discussion this evening.”

He also called for a review of the Dublin convention, which obliges refugees to seek asylum in the EU country where they first arrive.

“There has been talk in the last council meeting of the Dublin accord. That’s the law . . . but if it’s ineffective and it needs to be strengthened, then that should be done also. I would be recommending that the council would look at the question of how you would make that more effective in everybody’s interest.”

Earlier this week, Frontex said that 710,000 refugees had entered the EU in the first nine months of the year.