EU plans migration summit with Turkey

2015-11-12 23:07
A man carries a child as migrants prepare to travel by dinghy from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Chios. (Emre Tazegul, AP)

A man carries a child as migrants prepare to travel by dinghy from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Chios. (Emre Tazegul, AP)

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Valletta - The European Union will hold a special summit with Turkey to secure its co-operation on stemming migration flows, top officials said on Thursday, adding that they are working to come up with €3bn in aid demanded by Ankara.

"We feel confident that a mutually beneficial relationship can be established that will help us confront the present [migration] crisis," EU President Tusk said after informal talks with the bloc's leaders in the Maltese capital Valletta.

The EU has been courting Turkey for more than a month in a bid to enlist its help in holding back the migrants and asylum seekers that have been transiting through its territory on their way to Europe.

More than 800 000 people have reached the continent by sea this year and thousands are arriving daily on Greek islands after setting off from Turkey on often rickety boats. The country is home to more than 2 million Syrian refugees.

In what critics have decried as a "dirty deal", Brussels is offering Turkey more aid and closer ties in exchange for help on the refugee crisis. The approach is controversial because of concerns over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarianism and human rights record.

According to Brussels diplomats, one of Ankara's demands had been a high-profile summit between Erdogan and the EU's 28 leaders - an unusual format.

"We are ready to hold a special summit of the 28 member states with Turkey as soon as possible," Tusk said in Valletta. "I do not have a date yet, but it could still be this year after a new [Turkish] government has been formed."

Turkey held elections on November 1 that delivered a victory to Erdogan's party.

Tusk said he was "99% sure" that the summit would be held in Brussels at the end of November. The date under consideration is November 29, sources said on condition of anonymity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande both spoke of late November or early December as a time for the summit.

A more tricky demand from Ankara has been the €3bn in support to help it host Syrian refugees - three times more than what the cash-strapped EU had initially offered.

But Merkel said that "in principle, the sum has not been challenged".

"I don't think this is about political prices. This is about opening a new chapter," she added.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive, would be able to provide €500m over the next two years, President Jean-Claude Juncker said in Valletta.

He suggested that EU member states should make up the rest, with their contributions based on gross national incomes.

According to a document prepared by the commission for Thursday's talks and seen by dpa, that would require Germany to provide the largest contribution at €534m over the next two years - followed by Britain with €410m, France with €387m and Italy with €281m.

The proposal is expected to prove unpopular among EU member states, sources said on condition of anonymity.

"It's a somewhat difficult budgetary issue, but ... I am hopeful that we will manage and that we will be able to conclude our negotiations with Turkey during the special summit," Juncker said.

The money would be aid for refugees, "not a compensation for Turkey", Hollande insisted. He said the summit would be used to also hold talks with Erdogan on Turkey's EU membership bid and easier visas for its citizens - two other areas where Ankara has asked for progress.

The issue of Cyprus is also expected to come up. The island, a member of the EU, is divided into a Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north since 1974 after Turkey invaded the north in response to a Greek-led coup. The situation has long strained relations between Ankara and Nicosia.

Read more on:    eu  |  turkey  |  migrants

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