All migrants and refugees arriving in Greece from this Sunday (20 March) will be returned to Turkey, under a controversial agreement hammered out over two days between the EU and Ankara at a summit in Brussels.
All migrants and refugees arriving in Greece from this Sunday (20 March) will be returned to Turkey, under a controversial agreement hammered out over two days between the EU and Ankara at a summit in Brussels.
The press conferences have finished. Meanwhile, across town, Salah Abdeslam was injured and captured following a shootout with police in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels. Abdeslam is the main suspect behind the Paris shootings last November.
Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum, Migration and Administrative Simplification Theo Francken tweeted, “We got him”.
We hebben hem.
— Theo Francken (@FranckenTheo) March 18, 2016
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and French President Francois Hollande are meeting now and are expected to give a press conference soon.
During her national briefing, the German Chancellor, Angela MerkeI, said that she’s under no illusions that what was agreed today will not run into setbacks. “There are enormous logistical challenges,” she said. The Chancellor issued a plea to migrants at Idomeni: They should leave the camp and seek proper shelter, meaning being registered by the Greek authorities and then relocated.
Merkel said she expects all EU member states to take part in the resettlement scheme with Turkey, except Hungary and Slovakia.
22-minute press conference with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, almost entirely taken up with questions about the Budget, the sugar tax and personal independence payment cuts for hte disabled. Cameron did spin the tampon tax victory as showing the UK was “better off in a reformed EU”, and that it was better to be “in the room” negotiating than “not in the room.”
He hailed the EU-Turkey deal as “busting the business model of the people smugglers” and – in response to a question about Nigel Farage – said Turkey’s full membership of the EU was “not remotely on the cards.”
The various press conferences – Juncker, Tusk, Merkel, Cameron, Rahoy et al – are expected soon.
The rest of the conclusions welcome progress on reform of the Dublin Regulation, and “future architecture of the EU’s migration policy.”
European leaders said they would remain “extremely vigilant” against possible new migration routes. “In this context, the fight against smugglers everywhere and by all appropriate means remains key.” There is a specific mention of Libya and backing for the Government of National Accord. Libya is particularly worrisome as there are 450,000 displaced persons in the wartorn country – and summer is coming. Summer is likely to bring more attempts to cross the Med.
The conclusions also call for more support for the Western Balkan countries and the European Investment Bank is asked to present at the June summit a new initiative to bring extra money to support “sustainable growth, vital infrastructure and social cohesion.”
Council conclusions are out. The headlines are: Member states have promised to provide Greece “at short notice” with border guards, asylum experts and interpreters. Leaders agreed that relocation of refugees including conducting security checks must be sped up. The EU reiterates that it expects Turkey to respect the highest standards of democracy, rule of law and respect of fundamental freedoms – including the freedom of expression.
President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, just rang his little bell to signal the start of the roundtable talks between the EU-28 and the Turkish prime minister.
Finnish prime minister says a migration deal with Turkey has just been adopted.
Georgi Gotev reports Tusk puts euco revised proposal on the table, which explicitly states: – On the issue of legality, the deal has to be in full compliance with EU law, respect the principle of ‘non-refoulement’, and not create collective expulsions.
– On the issue of when the deal will go into effect, it will be explicit that the cut-off date is next Sunday, 20 March. All migrants arriving to Greece after this date will be returned, in compliance with the legal procedure.
– On money, as the Turkish concern so far was that the payment process was too slow, the solution will be that concrete projects will be jointly identified with the Commission within one week.
– Regarding the opening of chapters in the accession process, which has been the most difficult issue, the solution is that chapter 33 (regarding budget), which is not under a Cypriot veto, will be open. If leaders decide that the deal is acceptable, it needs to be confirmed with the Turkish PM in the next session of today’s meetings.
The victory claimed by David Cameron over the so-called “tampon tax” was the clearest sign yet that the Brexit referendum was sidelining all other discussions on the economy at the summit.
As our reporter James Crisp noted, this was a PR masterstroke for Cameron who was able to present the move as a sign of Britain’s ability to wring change out of Brussels, as the referendum campaign heats up.
The news also had the additional advantage of keeping the eurosceptic press busy at home. Here’s the story, in case you missed it:
The British government was able to claim an unlikely victory at the EU summit on migration tonight (17 March), after securing a tax break on tampons.
Worth noting, the economic discussions which usually take center stage at EU Spring summit meetings, have been completely sidelined because of the Brexit referendum campaign currently underway in the UK.
Leaders instead heard ECB President Mario Draghi reiterating earlier warnings about the “structural weaknesses of the eurozone economy” and need for further integration.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi warned European leaders on Thursday (17 March) that monetary policy alone would not be enough to jump-start the economy and that governments needed to do their job by pushing through structural reforms.
This is proving to be a relatively quiet summit so far, with no long night discussions or open quarrels. Press conferences were brief and leaders remained broadly tight-lipped ahead of today’s meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, which will be the centerpiece of the summit.
Hello everyone, EurActiv’s morning team is now taking over.
EurActiv’s night team says goodnight. The morning team will take over with more coverage from the summit from around 9 am.
French President François Hollande insisted on that “the migrants should be sent back while respecting their rights to asylum”.
He said that, “even if an agreement was signed, the source of the problem was not solved, and the issue of migration would stay”.
He said the next migration crisis could come from Libya, with the return of summer.
Hollande said that no breach in human rights or press freedom in Turkey was acceptable.
European Union leaders have agreed a common position to put to Turkey in a bid to curb the migration crisis, Luxembourg’s premier said at a Brussels summit early Friday.
“Agreement on EU position, @eucopresident will present it to Turkish Prime Minister before our EU Council tomorrow,” Xavier Bettel wrote on Twitter, referring to European Council President Donald Tusk.
A senior EU official said it was “not a deal but a common position” that would allow negotiations to move forward, adding that Tusk had “understood everyone’s red lines”.
Henriette Jacobsen reports.
Angela Merkel held a 15 minute press conference. She warned that tomorrow’s negotiations “will be anything but easy”.
Merkel said it was leaders’ intention to put more funds on the table exclusively for Syrian refugees.
Asked about when the migrant for refugee swaps could begin, she said dates had not been specified yet.
“We are talking about weeks, only a few days, before resettlements will have to be initiated.”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he had said that any position taken needed to be in line with international law, supporting the right to asylum and preventing mass expulsion.
We requested the eventual conclusions ensure that international law is respected and that has been included he said.
The eventual role of the UNHCR was not discussed but Rajoy thinks it should be important.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades was asked if he would veto a deal with Turkey tomorrow.
“If needed, yes,” he answered. But no one expects that to happen. All signs are that Cyprus is prepared to compromise.
From the doorstep as EU leaders leave.
Italian PM Matteo Renzi was asked if there was a deal. “We will see tomorrow,” he said.
British PM David Cameron didn’t stop for questions, and neither did Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaitė. She came out with one of the lines of the night, at the beginning of the summit. She said that the migrant swap was “on the edge of international law”.
It’s all over. Working dinner finished, leaders leaving, no press conference – but possibly some national briefings.
Jorge Valero reports.
Other small changes have also been introduced to the text. Leaders are currently deep in discussion with their diplomats. The European Commission will meet again in 30 minutes, sources said.
The chapters for the Turkey accession to the EU, and the wording on the additional €3 billion for Turkey remain, as yet, unchanged.
EU sources suspect an agreement among the 28 leaders will be reached tonight. Tusk, Juncker and Rutte will share that position with the Turkish Prime Minister in the morning.
If Turkey want further changes, the European Council will reconvene. So it could all be over in the morning.
The latest draft proposal for the deal with Turkey includes stronger wording condemning the terror attacks in Ankara over the weekend, a specification of which costs the EU will cover regarding the return of refugees to Turkey, and new language on visa liberalisation, stressing that “all benchmarks would have to have been met first”.
There are 72 benchmarks that must be reached by Turkey before visa liberalisation can take place.
The Greeks have also demanded that there will be no wording in the deal on how refugees on the Greek islands are transferred to the mainland.
The Council conclusions on jobs, growth, competitiveness and on climate and energy have just been published: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/03/17-euco-intermediate-conclusions/
Henriette Jacobsen reports: Sweden won’t block any deal with Turkey despite Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s concern that a 1:1 refugee swap with Turkey might derail a promised internal EU relocation of some of the refugees who arrived in Sweden in the past year. Löfven has been given a mandate from the Swedish parliament to accept the migration package deal with Turkey, but might raise the issue of the promised relocation scheme within the EU, a diplomat said, not least to please voters and the press back home.
Matthew Tempest reports: Two separate senior EU officials are now keen to let it be known what the timetable for any future 1:1 EU-Turkey migrant swap would be. And that, basically, is “soon.” No dates likely in the text, but as fast as the translators and asylum processors can be sent to Greece and set up shop, but not so delayed as to create a deadline for any migrants thinking of setting sail for Greece, and thereby the rest of Europe, and creating an artificial ‘pull factor’ to do it now, before the mechanisms are in place.
Jorge Valero reports: EU sources say the agreement will not call for a systematic rejection of all migrants arriving in Greece. Under the individual process guarantee authorities will have to assess whether an asylum seeker may face a serious risk in Turkey when he/she is sent back. For example, Syrian kurds won’t be rejected.
EXCLUSIVE / Up to €10 billion could be found to help alleviate the refugee crisis by using unspent cash left over from the European Union budget.
Georgi Gotev reports: Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov warns of traffickers’ activism near the country’s border
Asked about the risk of an alternative migrant route via Bulgaria, PM Boyko Borissov said that there was a suspicious activism of “journalists and NGOs” in Macedonia, at Suva Reka, a river between Macedonia and Greece. He added that free pamphlets in Arabic were being distributed to the migrants, alluding that journalists and NGOs were most probably traffickers. The publications advised them to follow an alternative route through Bulgaria.
“Seventy-four of your colleagues suddenly flocked there. This unorganized activity wasn’t so unorganized,” he said, adding that he has been in close contact with his Macedonian counterpart and that Bulgaria was ready to send officers on the ground, to assist their Macedonian colleagues.
Asked about the time it would take migrants to reach Bulgaria from Suva Reka, Borissov said it would take one hour, less than moving patrols from Sofia to Blagoevgrad, 100 km away.
Borissov urged the journalists to investigate who is behind the publications and the suspicious activism at Suva Reka.
Open letter to the Heads of State and Government of the European Union by Spinelli Group members:
Mercedes BRESSO, Member of the European Parliament Elmar BROK, Chair of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Pascal DURAND, Member of the European ParliamentSylvie GOULARD, Member of the European ParliamentDanuta HÜBNER, Chair of the European Parliament Constitutional Affairs Committee Jo LEINEN, Member of the European ParliamentUlrike LUNACEK, Member of the European ParliamentGuy VERHOFSTADT, President of the ALDE group in the European Parliament
Kurds are angry that the EU is ignoring their worsening situation in Turkey, because it wants Ankara to resolve the refugee crisis. Turkey has been engaged in a unofficial civil war with its Kurdish community since last summer, following an ISIS attack on a meeting of left-wing Kurds in Suruc, in July 2015. (Joel Schalit)
Cameron stressing the UK’s special status…
“What we’re talking about today is actually busting the business model of these people smugglers, and so therefore breaking the link between getting in a boat and getting settlement in Europe so we support the idea of turning back people from the Greek islands back to Turkey, that is a good idea. But we ought to be clear here about Britain’s special status in this organisation.
“Because we’ve kept our own border controls, because we’re out of Schengen, we won’t be offering visa free access to Turks as part of this agreement. We maintain our own immigration policy. Also, we’ve already said what we’re going to do in terms of taking Syrian refugees to Britain and that’s underway, and we won’t be taking more because of what’s being discussed here today. But if we can get an agreement that returns migrants from the Greek islands to Turkey that will be good progress.”
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven says he expects there will be a deal tonight after tough negotiations. However, according to Swedish press, the prime minister is very much under pressure: If there is a resettlement deal with Turkey, it’s likely that a relocation of the refugees, who have arrived in Sweden the past year to other EU member states, won’t happen. Relocation of its refugees is an important issue for Sweden and something which the Scandinavian country was likewise promised by the Commission.
The summit is also meant to cover energy security and climate change. But that very nearly didn’t happen…
EXCLUSIVE / A spat between Germany and Poland almost derailed plans for European Union leaders to call for the swift signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change at today’s summit in Brussels.
Has the Cypriot President prepared the ground for a climbdown?
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said Thursday that a compromise was possible on an EU-Turkey deal on the migration crisis at a summit in Brussels, days after threatening to block the accord over his country’s tense relations with Turkey.
“There are obstacles, but I do hope that during the deliberations that will follow at the European Council, there is going to be a compromise,” Anastasiades told reporters at a meeting of centre-right leaders ahead of the summit.
No love for the Turkish president. Kurds protest EU-Turkey refugee deal, European Commission.(Joel Schalit)
No loved lost for Turkey’s premier. Kurdish anti-refugee deal protest, European Commission.
Turkey’s most-loved leader. Kurds protest EU-Ankara refugee deal, European Commission.(Joel Schalit)
Kurds protest EU-Turkey refugee deal. European Commission, 17 March. (Joel Schalit)
This could get awkward…
Tusk tells European Union leaders to keep cool.
“I am cautiously optimistic but frankly, more cautious than optimistic,” said European Council President Donald Tusk — who will chair the summit of 28 EU leaders on Thursday.
“If we keep our cool we will achieve success,” Tusk added after talks in Brussels with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker meanwhile said on Twitter that he was “cautiously optimistic that we will conclude a binding agreement with Turkey” before he held eve-of-summit talks with Cyprus.
European Union leaders begin a difficult summit today (17 March) to push for a crucial agreement with Turkey to curb the continent’s massive migration crisis despite threats by Cyprus to sink the deal.
Failure to agree a deal with Turkey at today’s summit on migration will condemn Greece to becoming the refugee camp of Europe, Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans warned on Wednesdays (16 March).
Angela Merkel stressed Wednesday that brokering a deal with Turkey will “demand a lot from us” and sought to quell domestic fears that EU membership would be offered to Ankara ,during a speech in the Bundestag ahead of a decisive European Council summit, EurActiv Germany reports.
On the eve of the crucial European Council summit, Maria João Rodrigues asks whether Turkey should be asked to control Europe’s external border and whether there are no other solutions that are more decent, cheaper and more reliable.
The EU denied Wednesday (16 March) that its planned deal to return all migrants who land in Greece to Turkey would break international law, saying there would be no mass expulsions.
The economy and the climate will be pushed to the margins of this week’s European Council summit (17-18 March), where discussions will once again be dominated by the migration crisis. EurActiv France reports.
EU treaty changes are laborious and come with a great deal of uncertainty. As a result, the European Parliament is assessing an own-initiative report that intends to assess what reforms of the functioning of the EU are possible without treaty changes. EurActiv Germany reports.
EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should be decoupled from the EU accession negotiating process, say Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in a report voted on Wednesday (15 March).
The Socialist and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament is organising a demonstration in Brussels today (16 March) urging EU leaders to stop building fences and find an EU-wide solution to the refugee crisis. EurActiv Greece reports.
The EU should be ready to “defend herself alone” in the refugee crisis, if the deal with Ankara does not work out, a Hungarian official said on Tuesday (5 March). EurActiv Greece reports.
At a meeting of Europe’s centre-left leaders on Saturday (12 March), François Hollande called for more effective controls on the EU’s external borders in order to protect the freedom of movement within the bloc. EurActiv France reports.
The EU summit which ended this morning (8 March) failed to reach a deal with Turkey to stem the unprecedented migrant crisis, as many heads of state and government opposed German Chancellor Merkel’s attempt to impose her own deal with Ankara.
40 minutes have passed since the end of the summit, but the presser with Tusk, Juncker and Davutoglu hasn’t started yet. In the pressroom there are probably more Turkish journalists than from EU countries. Strange atmosphere.
Frustration from Merkel’s separate deal with Davutoglu
A diplomat from the Visegrad Four group spoke of “the big frustration” of most of EU heads of state and government after Merkel and Rutte basically substituted the draft agreement crafted by the 28 ambassadors, with a draft deal they agreed last night with Davutoglu.
Council President Donald Tusk was reportedly even more frustrated because he needed to abandon the draft deal he had prepared, and tried instead to sell other leaders the Merkel-Davutoglu draft agreement.
As time passes it seems unlikely that this summit will end up with an agreement.
The formula “one for one” explained
EU leaders are holding bilateral talks for a second hour, following the rejection of the draft agreement (see below). The 28 leaders are expected to reconvene before having dinner with Davutoglu. But it is highly unlikely that they would have the basis for an agreement.
The draft agreement was basically agreed between Davutoglu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at their meeting yesterday night. But a vast majority of countries rejected the text (not only the central and eastern European countries, but many more member states).
The idea behind the formula of “for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states” is the following: If NATO or another force intercepts a boat with 50 people, among whom 10 are Syrian, all of them will be rescued and sent to Turkey. Then the EU will be obligated to take 10 Syrians (not the same people, though) from Turkey and send them by plane to EU countries.
Asked about the legal basis of this push-back of refugees, a diplomat said that they would not be pushed back, but saved.
Leaked draft agreement
Turkey and the European Union could cooperate to end the flow of irregular migrants to Greek islands and start resettling Syrian refugees directly from Turkey to the EU under a draft agreement seen by Reuters.
Below is the text prepared during a summit in Brussels:
Turkey and the EU reaffirm their commitment to carry further their existing ties and solidarity and adopt results oriented action to prepare their common future. It is a firm commitment of Turkey and the European Union to end irregular migration to the EU. In view of the importance of overcoming the common challenges ahead and the progress so far in the implementation of the “EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan and its Annex” adopted by the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015 in Brussels and in further to provision therein;
1) Readmit expeditiously all irregular migrants crossing into the Greek islands from Turkey without prejudice to Turkey’s current commitments under international law. This readmission process will be for a temporary period and only for humanitarian purposes.
2) For that purpose, station, in agreement with the Government of Greece, adequate number of immigration and liaison officers in the established “Irregular Migration Monitoring Units” mainly in Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos to help facilitate processing of readmission cases.
3) Effectively implement all appropriate administrative and legal instruments to serve above stated purposes, including in the bilateral arrangements that will be put in place in agreement with the Government of Greece.
4) Effectively cooperate with the EU as well as the UNHCR to ensure expedited resettlement in spirit of burden sharing of Syrians to the EU member states, based on the formula of “for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states.”
5) Effectively implement projects, submitted by Turkey and decided upon by the Refugee Facility Steering Committee; and cooperate with the EU member states in any joint endeavor to establish humanitarian safe areas inside Syria.
6) Evacuate completely refugees from the Greek islands and readmit only those, who crossed into the islands after a date to be determined.
7) Cover the cost incurred [in the Readmission process.]
8) Referring to Point 5 of the EU-Turkey Statement of 29 November 2015, instead of October, Adopt and implement a relevant EU Council Regulation to realize the lifting of visa requirements for the Turkish citizens in the Schengen zone, by latest end of June 2016, based on an accelerated roadmap, dedicated support and in conjunction with the Readmission Agreement.
9) Effectively and expeditiously resettle Syrians from Turkey based on the formula referred to in Article 4 to balance on a monthly basis, and cooperate with Turkey in any joint endeavor to establish humanitarian safe areas inside Syria.
10) Prepare for the decision on the opening of new chapters.*
11) Expedite and facilitate the transfer and disbursement of the Refugee Facility for Syrians and decide upon an additional facility of Euro 3 billion until the end of 2018.
12) Review progress jointly with Turkey on monthly basis, including on mutually agreed appropriate locations.
*Reuters note: This refers to steps in the process of negotiating Turkish accession to the European Union.
One more legal text…
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000) says in its article 19 “Collective expulsions are forbidden.”
Is sending back refugees from Greece legal?
A draft proposal seen at the summit says Turkey would take back all irregular migrants (both economic migrants and legitimate asylum seekers) from Greek islands, including Syrians. The EU would then admit one Syrian refugee directly from Turkey for every Syrian readmitted to Turkey from the Greek islands.
In exchange, the EU would offer a further €3 billion until the end of 2018 to help Turkey shelter Syrians, doubling the amount of an earlier offer, and provide other benefits to Ankara.
The EU lawyers who are likely present in large numbers at the summit should, however, explain if such arrangements are compatible with international law.
The UN Convention on refugees from 1951 prohibits contracting parties (all EU member states are contracting parties) from expelling or returning (refouler) refugees, except on grounds of public order.
Moreover, the Convention doesn’t allow for discrimination based on refugees’ country of origin, meaning that they cannot accept Syrians and reject other nationalities. (See articles 3, 32, 33 of the Convention.)
The trade-off, according to diplomatic sources:
Turkey commits to:
– the readmission of all economic migrants arriving to Greek islands from its soil – to cooperate with the EU and UNHCR to apply the formula of “one Syrian refugees readmitted for one Syrian refugee redeployed to member states”n and – to set up safe areas in Syria
In return, the EU will: – help to evacuate the islands and to readmit those who meet the criteria – cover the costs of the readmission process – allow a visa-free regime for Turkish nationals by the end of June (the latest) – cooperate in setting up safe humanitarian areas in Syria – prepare for opening new chapters in the accession talks – facilitate the release of funds from the Refugee Facility for Syrians and will decide a new financial assistance of €3 billion (until 2018) – monitoring the implementation of the agreement on a daily basis
EU leaders are discussing all of these details right now.
Difficult issues raised bilaterally Speaking to the press at the summit, Parliament President Martin Schulz indicated that he had raised with Turkish PM Davutoglu some uncomfortable issues, but it appears that those were raised bilaterally, not during the summit. Schulz received Davutoglu in the European Parliament this morning.
He said that the Parliament takes the position that in the EU-Turkey talks the issue of EU accession negotiations, like the opening of new chapters, needs to be separate from the “short-term issues of the refugee crisis”. (The “Action Plan” with Turkey, engineered by Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, in fact, doesn’t separate those issues.)
The Parliament President mentioned that the recent case of the government takeover of daily newspaper Zaman and media freedom in general needed to be discussed in the context of the accession negotiations. He said he raised the Zaman case in the bilateral meeting he had with Davutoglu in the morning.
Schulz said that the acceleration of the visa liberalisation process, in which the European Parliament is a co-legislator, was possible only after a proposal of the Commission, and that before that the Turkish Parliament needed to pass nine different pieces of legislation. (It has been reported that Davutoglu wants a full visa-free regime even earlier than November this year, the date that has been mentioned so far.)
He called the new proposals made by Turkey to tackle the refugee crisis “very interesting”. He mentioned the additional sum of EUR 3 billion until 2018 requested by Turkey for refugees who are not in the camps. This, he said, was under discussion and the Parliament would also be part of the decision making.
“But one thing is clear, it doesn’t depend only on the European Parliament, it depends on member states, if they are prepared to put their money on the table. You remember that last time the Parliament was relatively fast and the member states were relatively slow,” Schulz said.
Schulz also said he had raised the issue of the “very difficult situation” in the southeastern part of Turkey. He didn’t mention the army violence against the Kurds, but said he made an appeal to the Turkish side “to re-start the peace process”.
Speaking about relocation, Schulz said Germany was ready to take 40,000 refugees from the agreed total number of 160,000, France another 30,000 and Portugal 10,000.
This is a total of 80,000 already, and the remaining 80,000 wouldn’t be a big burden for the remaining member states, he said.
Downing Street spokesperson confirms press freedom was brought up at lunch of leaders.
“During the lunch in Brussels today, the Prime Minister and other European leaders raised concerns about press freedoms in Turkey. “The PM underlined the importance of protections for a free press and human rights in Turkey.”
European Parliament President Martin Schulz called for the refugee crisis and Turkey’s possible accession to the EU to be treated as separate issues.
He told reporters at his press conference today, “Accession must continue to be a merit-based process. In this sense whether we look at the rule of law, the separation of powers, the freedom of the press, respect for Turkish institutions, the thorny issues must not be avoided.
“On this line, I have particularly raised the strong concerns of the European Parliament regarding the alarming developments on media freedom in the country, such as the measures against the newspaper Zaman over the weekend.”
We are hearing Turkey wants another €3 billion in aid from 2018.
This from AFP: Turkey’s prime minister made a new proposal for tackling the migrant crisis at a summit in Brussels on Monday, leading EU leaders to extend their meeting, officials said.
“There is a new proposal. We are trying to open the way to solve this proce ss, that’s why this is a new proposal,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s spokesman told reporters. He refused to give details of the new offer, but added: “We are not here just to talk about migrants. Of course Turkey’s EU accession process is an issue for us here.
“Our partners have good intentions and we have good intentions and all of us want to solve this. We want to find common ground.”
European Union leaders called the summit to follow up on a deal signed with Turkey in November, under which Ankara agreed to cut the flow of migrants to Europe and take back more deportees in exchange for three billion euros in aid.
The EU also agreed to open new “chapters” in Turkey’s long-stalled bid to join the EU.
AFP reports Turkey’s Tayyip Erdoğan has criticised the European Union for a four-month delay in disbursing a promised €3 billion fund for refugees agreed under a November deal.
“It’s been four months. They are yet to deliver,” Erdoğan said in a speech in Ankara, as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held summit talks on the migrant crisis with EU leaders. “Mr prime minister is currently in Brussels. I hope he will return with the money.”
Jorge Valero reports: The choreography of the summit has changed, because Turkish PM Davutoğlu is going to present “new ideas” which are more ambitious compared to those agreed with Tusk in Turkey on Thursday evening. Tusk is aware of these new demands.
Davutoğlu will present the demands at lunch. There will then be a 28 member states summit to agree on a common position, and then Davutoğlu will be back for dinner to discuss the ideas with him once a position is reached.
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the ALDE group, has said the EU must not “sell its soul” to Turkey.
He said, “EU leaders are risking everything on a single card: Turkey. Outsourcing our problems to Turkey is however naive. Moreover we should not sell our soul for a deal with a country simply because we are incapable of dealing with our problems and implementing a real European solution.”
“Again we continue to accept empty promises such as the returning of all non-Syrian migrants reaching Greek islands back to Turkey. In other words, we are accepting a deal to return migrants to a country which imprisons journalists, attacks civil liberties, and with a highly worrying human rights situation.
“The deterioration of press freedom in Turkey should be one of the points on the agenda of the summit. The violent takeover of the daily Zaman is an offence to Turkish citizens and EU leaders. We cannot stand by and watch
“The real alternative is a genuine European response,which invokes article 78.3 to create a European Rapid Refugee Emergency Force to manage all European external borders, especially those between Turkey and Greece. Greece is completely overwhelmed and it’s the obligation of all EU countries to show solidarity and assist Greece
“Again, it is up to the EU to design a strategy to take a grip on the flow coming to Europe, we should not pay Turkey to do this for us”.
The director of the EU maritime safety agency said civil drones are most needed to monitor hotspots and detect refugees arriving to Europe by boat.
European Union leaders today (7 March) will back closing down the Balkans route used by most migrants to reach Europe, diplomats said, after at least 25 more people drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea en route to Greece.
A leading Turkish newspaper which had staunchly opposed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan printed yesterday (6 March) its first new edition since its seizure by authorities, strongly supporting the government line.
Refugees and asylum seekers risk suffering “long-term damage” due to ill-prepared policies to integrate them, the OECD has warned, while European nations start preparing for the worst.
EXCLUSIVE / A list of requests to protect external borders recently sent to several member states by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has exposed the weaknesses of the group of countries blocking an EU-wide solution of the refugee crisis.
As the refugee crisis continues, EU governments should respond with leadership and avoid knee-jerk reactions, writes Thorbjørn Jagland.
EXCLUSIVE / No official decision is expected to be made during an EU-Turkey summit on Monday (7 March) dedicated to the refugee crisis, due to the upcoming German state elections, diplomats told EurActiv Greece.