European Union leaders and the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu will meet in Brussels on Sunday (29 November) to discuss refugee issues and improving relations between the EU and Ankara, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk tweeted on Monday (23 November).
The EU badly needs Turkey’s cooperation to stem the flow of refugees to the 28-nation bloc as wars in Syria, Iraq and Africa have triggered a flood of an estimated 1 million refugees seeking a safer and better life in the EU only this year.
A further 1.5 million refugees are expected in 2016, and another half a million in 2017.
The summit was expected to take place on that date, because it was the only possible in view of the COP21 climate conference beginning on 30 November in Paris, which the same leaders will attend.
Tusk agreed with Turkish President Tayyip Erdo?an on 12 November to hold a meeting in Brussels once an agreement on stemming migration flows was finalised.
However, it is far from certain that such agreement is finalised. After long hesittaions, it now appears that Turkey will be represented by its Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu. On the EU side, all 28 heads of state and government will attend. Turkey is still in the process of forming a government after the 25 October elections, which Erdo?an and Davuto?lu’s AK Party won.
At the G20 Antalya summit, Tusk discussed preparations for the summit with both Erdo?an and Davuto?lu, who will attempt to agree on an Action Plan between Turkey and the EU.
The EU has been preparing a package of incentives, including financial assistance to the tune of €3 billion, if both sides can agree on a refugee cooperation accord.
Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Feridun Sinirlioglu slammed the EU’s proposed financial help as insufficient, but Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently indicated that the offer could be improved.
It is almost certain that the EU will speed up the granting of visa-free travel for periods of up to three months to Turkish nationals, and that at least one chapter of the accession negotiations will open, specifically N.17, “Economic and monetary policy.”
But Turkey is also interested to weigh in the ongoing diplomatic process which seeks to put an end to the Syria war. Ankara is particularly hostile to the Russian military intervention in Syria. It has protested the Russian bombings of Turkmen villages near its border and warned Moscow against supplying arms and supporting Syrian Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria.
Ankara supports rebels opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, while Moscow backs the Syrian leader.
Turkey sees the Turkmen minority in Syria as a natural ally in its struggle against Assad. Reports in recent days have suggested Ankara wants Turkmen forces to fight against IS jihadists on the ground as a branch of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
On Friday (20 November), Davuto?lu warned of a new influx of refugees, resulting from the Russian bombings.
“If civilians fleeing massacre and cluster bombs head to Turkey, and a new refugee influx emerges, everyone concerned will be held accountable,” Davuto?lu was quoted as saying.
It is very unlikely that Turkey would assume binding obligations to stop refugees from going to Europe if international handling of the Syria crisis leads to a strengthening of Syria’s Kurdish community.
Led by the left-wing Democratic Union Party (PYD), Syria’s Kurds are caught in a bind. Considered an offshoot of the PKK by Ankara, its military forces have proved the most effective of any Syrian faction in the fight against ISIS, and are armed and supported by the US.
Any move to crush the PYD would inevitably find the Americans and Turks in conflict, something which both parties wish to avoid.