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.
Merkel emphasised again that the refugee crisis can only be addressed by a “European solution”. The fundamental objective of the EU-Turkey summit is to agree on a strategy that will protect the EU’s external border.
There is a certain amount of consensus among member states that Turkey deserves support as a result of the sheer number of refugees that have entered the country and this could mean that Turkish requests for more financial support until the end of 2018, on top of the €3 billion already approved, could be granted.
However, Merkel said that the use of any EU funding should be “transparent” and housing and medical care for refugees, as well as education, should be the priorities.
The EU has been at pains to stress that current asylum laws must not be overridden by any repatriation deal reached with Ankara. There will be no “mass deportations” from Greece, said Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.
The German chancellor also emphasised that Turkish EU-membership would not be used as a bargaining chip. Turkey wants accession chapters to be opened and an acceleration of visa liberalisation.
Around three million ethnic Turkish citizens call Germany home and given the close economic ties between Berlin and Ankara as well, there is clearly a high demand for relatives to be able to visit and business to be conducted more easily.
Turkey would like visa facilitation to have taken effect by the end of June, in return for accepting European demands to repatriate refugees.
However, Merkel added that a number of unresolved issues stand in the way of this. The Cyprus question remains problematic, although a reunification deal is thought to be nearer than ever, as do certain judicial concerns. The issues of press freedom and human rights will also have to be broached if any progress is to be made.
“Our handling of the refugee crisis will have to look long-term, in Germany and the rest of Europe, inside and outside (the EU),” said Merkel. “The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear that we are rich continent capable of meeting and mastering this challenge, together.”