EU to lift visa regime by June, double financial aid to Turkey: Draft agreement
European Council President Donald Tusk, front center, shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, front second left, during a group photo at an EU summit in Brussels on Monday, March 7, 2016. AP PhotoThe European Union and Turkey have settled on an additional 3 billion euros in funds to combat the influx of migrants to the bloc while also reaching a deal on visa-free in tough talks at an extended summit in Brussels on March 7.
The EU offered to lift visa requirements and provide an additional 3 billion euros in aid to Turkey, after a half-day summit was extended upon Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s suggestion of “new ideas” going beyond Ankara’s commitments to curb a flood of migrants to Europe, Reuters and Turkish Prime Ministry sources have reported.
The Turkish sources said visas would be scrapped for Turkish citizens by the end of June and an additional 3 billion euros would be given to Turkey to provide better living conditions for Syrian migrants in its country.
At the same time, the 28-nation bloc will accept one refugee from Turkey for every Syrian refugee Turkey accepts, Turkish sources added, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.
“For every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states,” read a part of the draft agreement seen by Reuters.
Instead of October, a visa-free deal for Turkish citizens in the Schengen Zone will be implemented by June in conjunction with a readmission agreement, according to the deal.
As part of what the EU will do, the draft agreement said the EU would “expedite and facilitate the transfer and disbursement of the Refugee Facility for Syrians and decide upon an additional facility of 3 billion euros until the end of 2018.”
Hours before the draft agreement was seen, the head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said Turkey had asked for an additional 3 billion euros from the EU to help it deal with the refugee crisis.
Schulz said a “further request of the Turkish side for additional money – 3 billion euros – are in the debate, are in the discussion,” according to the Associated Press.
The Brussels summit was extended on March 7, as one EU official told Reuters that Turkey started “offering more and demanding more” in the first working session.
The official said Davutoğlu was scheduled to set out further-reaching proposals over a working lunch with the 28 EU leaders and the summit continued into the evening to try to reach agreement on them.
A Turkish official speaking to reporters in Brussels on condition of anonymity said on March 7 also said Turkey presented a new proposal to EU member states during the summit.
The officials said the EU-Turkey summit was not only focused on migration but also on Turkey’s EU accession process.
“Turkey’s existence here… [Turkey’s] attendance at the summit is not directly linked to the migration issue,” state-run Anadolu Agency quoted a Turkish official as saying.
“We are not here just to talk about the migrants. Turkey’s EU accession is an issue for us here as well,” he added.
The EU is hardening its stance in a bid to defuse the worst refugee crisis since World War II by increasingly putting the onus on Turkey and EU member Greece in return for aid.
Earlier in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he hoped Davutoğlu would return from the summit with the 3 billion euros in aid.
“We already spent $10 billion for 3 million people. They promised to give us 3 billion euros but four months have passed since then. The prime minister is in Brussels right now. I hope he returns with that money, the 3 billion euros,” Erdoğan said in a speech.
On March 6, Davutoğlu held a six-hour meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU term president Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Brussels, during which the joint action plan on illegal migrants, regional developments, and Turkey’s membership process to the EU were on top of the meetings’ agenda, according to sources from the Turkish Prime Ministry.
The tête-à-tête was held at Turkey’s Permanent Representation to the EU late on March 6 and was followed by a trilateral meeting of Turkish, German and Dutch delegations.