EU, Turkey intensify talks over migration plan
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Frans Timmermans (L), the first vice president of the European Commission with Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu (R). AA PhotoDiplomatic shuttling between Ankara and Brussels has accelerated greatly as part of joint efforts to secure a solution to the growing refugee crisis amid expectations that an agreement will be finalized at a prospective Turkey-EU summit.
Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission, was in Turkey on Nov. 19 to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu as part of a continuation of last week’s intense negotiations over the refugee action plan. The two men and their experts met in Istanbul late on Nov. 19 in an unannounced meeting.
The meetings came just three days after the refugee issue was discussed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.
EU officials have cited progress on talks but there are still important disagreements on how to finalize the framework of the agreement between Turkey and the EU. Leaders of the bloc have expressed their willing to hold the special summit with Turkey on Nov. 29 in order to finalize an accord to curb refugees flowing from the Middle East to Europe.
“There are promises, but still no certainty on these issues. It’s meaningless to gather unless they make these issues clear,” a senior Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News, stressing that Ankara was waiting for the EU to take action on several issues.
Turkey wants certainty
The first of these issues is the opening of accession Chapter 17 on economic and monetary policy. EU officials informed Ankara that an intergovernmental conference would be convened in December for the opening of the chapter, without providing an exact date. However, Turkish officials stressed the need to make this call an official one and announce an exact date for the conference.
In addition to this, Turkey has also expressed its expectations that more chapters will be reopened by the EU to re-energize talks. Turkey’s list includes five more chapters, including 23 and 24, which cover justice and fundamental rights, as well as security, respectively. But EU officials have hesitated to give a concrete word to Turkey because this would require the anonymous approval of all 28 members, including Greek Cyprus, which has vetoed a number of these chapters.
EU offers 3 billion euros
Another pressing issue is the financial assistance to be provided to Turkey. EU offered Ankara 3 billion euros to help Turkey accommodate the more than 2 million Syrians it is hosting. Of that, 500 million euros would come from the EU budget and the rest from the 28 member states according to their national incomes. Ankara wants to see a clarification of the EU grant before holding the summit.
Third, Turkey has said it wants to be invited to the EU’s council meetings held every six months. Turkey has long pressed the EU for permanent invitations to attend EU Council meetings to increase political dialogue.
Erdoğan or Davutoğlu to attend summit?
The EU’s first proposal was to hold the summit on Nov. 22 on the migration crisis, but Ankara preferred Nov. 29, one day after a planned vote of confidence for the new Turkish government, the official said.
The EU leaders planned to invite President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the summit in Brussels, but the issue of who will represent Turkey is still unclear, since the execution of the plan will be carried out by the government, according to EU sources. As such, the invitation could go to either Erdoğan’s palace of the prime minister’s office.
In the meantime, officials said Sinirlioğlu delegated Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru to represent Turkey at the U.N.’s meeting on migration on Nov. 20 even though the foreign minister was originally scheduled to attend the meeting.