EU-Turkish summit on migrants risks delay, says European diplomats
BRUSSELS - Reuters
REUTERS photoA summit between the European Union and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to seal cooperation on Europe’s migration crisis may be delayed because the two sides have yet to agree how to implement a joint action plan, European diplomats said on Nov. 20.
The meeting was provisionally penciled in for Nov. 29 when EU leaders met in Malta last week on the sidelines of a summit with African nations on controlling migration flows.
But diplomats said EU and Turkish officials have been unable to finalize a plan involving 3 billion euros in European funds, measures to keep refugees and migrants in Turkey, accelerated visa liberalization for Turks visiting Europe, and a revitalization of Ankara’s stalled EU accession negotiations.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said no date had been set for the summit yet after Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans held talks in Ankara on Nov. 19, but he denied that the talks had stalled.
Noting that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk had met Erdogan on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Turkey on Nov. 16, Schinas told reporters: “There is movement, the ball is rolling.
“We do hope that this process will lead soon to transform this joint action plan into an effective agreement that can be operationalized and produce change on the ground.”
An EU official familiar with the exchanges said Ankara was loath to commit to a timetable for improving conditions for refugees before the EU comes through with the money. Only Britain has made a firm financial pledge so far.
This was partly due to delays in the formation of a new Turkish government amid indications of a power struggle within the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won an absolute parliamentary majority in a Nov. 1 election, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been driving the EU thaw with Ankara, despite concerns about Erdogan’s authoritarian drift, to help Berlin cope with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and other migrants, most of whom came through Turkey.
“We need Turkey’s help and they are very aware of this. They are tough negotiators. If you rely too much on the Turks for help, you are making a mistake,” a German official said.
The EU aide said Turkish officials were reluctant to sign up to specific commitments before a new government was in place and they knew who their political masters would be.