Pressure on Merkel for refugee deal with Turkey

Pro-refugee Cologne mayoral candidate stabbed in attack with ‘racist motivation’

Pressure is growing on German chancellor Angela Merkel to ease Germany's refugee crisis ahead of a far-right march this evening in Dresden and the stabbing of a politician in Cologne on Saturday.

The German leader held talks in Ankara on Sunday to nail down terms of an agreement with Turkey to ease flows of refugees to Europe.

Last week, EU leaders meeting in Brussels offered €3 billion in aid, an easing of visa restrictions, and the prospect of granting Turkey “safe country of origin” status.

“Europe cannot protect its outer border alone if we don’t come to an agreement with Turkey,” said Dr Merkel in Ankara.

In return, the chancellor supported efforts to conclude talks by July of next year on visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the EU.

The urgency of her mission became clear following a knife attack on Henriette Reker, an independent politician who works with refugees in Cologne and who was running to be the city's next mayor.

Police said the attacker, identified as Frank S, stabbed Ms Reker in the neck at a Cologne market at on Saturday morning, shouting “I’m doing this for your children”.

The perpetrator had a “racist motivation”, police said, and was reportedly a member of a neo-Nazi organisation in the 1990s.

During questioning the man reportedly said that “the foreigners are taking our jobs”. He was then charged with attempted murder.

Dresden anniversary

The attack comes ahead of this evening’s first anniversary in Dresden of the Monday- night marches of the anti-immigrant

Pegida

group.

The group and its marches, protesting against a perceived "Islamisation of the West", have grown more radical in recent months as more than one million migrants are forecast to arrive in Germany this year from Syria, Eritrea and other crisis zones.

Dr Merkel’s mission is particularly delicate because of her insistence, as Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader, that Turkey should not be allowed into the EU, despite ongoing accession talks.

After EU leaders agreed the outline of a package of measures, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu made clear that Ankara would act only after binding agreement on funding and concrete changes to the EU visa policy.

After talks with Dr Merkel on Sunday, he struck a conciliatory note, expressing optimism of a thaw in “frozen” accession talks and praise for the chancellor’s “courageous approach” to the refugee question.

“This is something that no one country can manage,” he said.

After their talks, Dr Merkel said: “Turkey wants additional money, I understand that.” She added that easing visa rules was “something we can talk about” before heading into talks with president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Boost for AK

Amid warnings to EU leaders from human rights groups, any such concessions would be a political boost for Mr Erdogan’s ruling AK party ahead of November 1st elections.

A positive signal from Ankara, meanwhile, would help ease growing domestic pressure on Dr Merkel to throttle the refugee flows to Europe.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Erdogan heaped scorn on the EU's interest in assisting Turkey, which is hosting 2.5 million refugees.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Dr Merkel’s weak hand in talks has been perceived as a humiliation.

Günther Oettinger, the German EU commissioner and a senior CDU figure, said: “Two years ago, even one year ago, I couldn’t have imagined that the chancellor would have to fly to Ankara as a supplicant.”