Migrant crisis: EU and Turkey hold ‘difficult’ summit


Source: BBC

European Union leaders are holding a key summit with Turkey in Brussels on ways of dealing with Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

The EU is pressing Turkey, through which many migrants transit, to take some back in return for $3.3bn in aid.

Turkey is reportedly asking for that sum to be doubled. The talks are being extended into a working dinner.

Meanwhile Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the EU of failing to deliver on the promised aid.

“It’s been four months,” Mr Erdogan said in Ankara. “My prime minister is currently in Brussels. I hope he will return with the money.”

Turkey is currently sheltering more than 2.7 million refugees from the civil war in neighbouring Syria. The EU wants Turkey to take back migrants who do not qualify for asylum and do more to patrol its own waters.

In exchange for this, the Turkish government is asking for the EU to increase its pledge to €6bn ($6.6bn; £4.64bn), European Parliament President Martin Schulz said.

Turkey is also seeking a faster path towards EU membership and the speeding up of plans to allow Turks visa-free travel in Europe.

Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters that he was proposing a “new package” designed to “strengthen Turkish-EU ties not only on the illegal migrants issue but also in all challenging issues as well as Turkey’s EU accession process”.

Last year, more than a million people entered the EU illegally by boat, mainly going from Turkey to Greece.

Many migrants leave Greece in an attempt to reach northern Europe, but eight countries have introduced temporary border controls.

Some 13,000 migrants are currently stranded in northern Greece, after Macedonia closed its border to all but a trickle.

The future of the Schengen agreement – which allows passport-free travel in a 26-nation zone – is on the agenda, as the leaders are anxious to save a system thought to bring billions of euros to Europe’s economy every year.

‘Solid opt-out’

After the talks started, organisers announced that the 28 EU leaders and Mr Davutoglu would discuss the latest proposals during a working dinner.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she anticipated a “difficult discussion”, as a rift emerged among EU powers on the closure of the main route through the Balkans.

A draft summit communique reported by journalists on Sunday declared that “irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans are coming to an end; this route is closed”.

But Mrs Merkel said: “Today is about finding a lasting solution together with Turkey… trying to find a way to stop illegal migration and improving the living conditions for the refugees.”

A German government source told the BBC there was no point saying the route was closed when 300-500 people still arrived in Germany every day this way.

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