EU will reach deal with Turkey, says EU’s Schulz
AA photoEuropean Parliament President Martin Schulz has said the EU would reach an agreement with Turkey, as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is in Brussels to attend a EU-Turkey summit to find a solution to the migrant crisis that has hit the bloc.
“Common sense will prevail; we will reach an agreement with Turkey about the return of migrants who have reached Europe,” Schulz said March 17.
“If we can’t have an agreement with Turkey about resettlement of refugees the number are just increasing. What will happen?” Schulz said, according to state-run Anadolu Agency. “This is why I hope we can reach an agreement with Turkey – at least they’re doing something about this; they’re talking to us. Some countries won’t even talk to us.”
All 28 EU heads of government gathered in Brussels March 17-18 to discuss how refugees and migrants entering Europe via Greece could be sent back to Turkey.
The leaders agreed on a common position, according to Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
“Agreement on EU position, @eucopresident will present it to Turkish Prime Minister before our EU Council tomorrow,” Bettel tweeted, referring to EU Council President Donald Tusk.
The EU has already pledged 3 billion euros to Turkey for the needs of Syrian refugees currently hosted in Turkey, along with visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and the acceleration of the candidate country’s accession process. With the provisional draft Turkey presented to the EU at another summit on March 7, Turkey demanded an extra 3 billion euros to improve the living conditions of the refugees in the country.
In exchange, the EU expects Turkey to crack down on human smugglers and stem the flow of refugees coming into Europe via its neighbor Greece.
Turkey is hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world and has spent more than seven billion euros on meeting the needs of the refugees, according to European Commission figures released last year.
Negotiations ‘not easy,’ says Merkel
On the first day of the two-day EU summit, European Union leaders worked on their stance regarding the deal.
“Tomorrow’s [March 18] negotiations with Turkey won’t be very easy,” Reuters quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying, who devised the outlines of the plan with Davutoğlu.
Over dinner, leaders gave EU negotiators a mandate to conclude an accord with Turkey.
Much of the debate, Merkel said, focused on ensuring that the plan, which has outraged human rights agencies, could ensure that those returned to Turkey would have the rights to claim asylum.
“An agreement with Turkey cannot be a blank cheque,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel warned, echoing many colleagues who face complaints that Europe is selling out to anti-immigrant nationalists at home by outsourcing its problems to the Turks.
Merkel said on March 18 that the EU must be ready to start returning migrants from Greece to Turkey rapidly to avoid a “pull factor” before the new system takes effect, although EU leaders had set no start date.
“We did not set a date, but Turkey’s clear understanding is that within a few days of returns starting, the one-for-one resettlement [of Syrian refugees from Turkey to Europe] should begin,” Merkel told a news conference.
“We’re on the right track but we’re not there yet,” French President François Hollande told reporters after the first day of talks in Brussels. “I can’t guarantee you a happy ending.”
Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed the Aegean Sea to reach Greece. This has placed a huge strain on the austerity-hit EU member and threatened the EU’s internal open border system, as countries to the north of Greece have imposed what some term illegal frontier restrictions and even border closures.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, facing a build-up of more than 40,000 refugees stranded in Greece by recent border closures in the Balkans, said his economically struggling country needed more help to care for migrants.
EU officials said Greece also needed time to set up legal and administrative structures to carry out deportations and grant migrants individual asylum and appeal hearings.