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EU leaders meet in Brussels to tackle refugee crisis, 'Brexit'

EU leaders have agreed on an action plan with Turkey to deal with the refugee crisis, according to reports from Brussels. Turkey has made a number of demands in exchange for its help in easing the burden.

EU leaders met in Brussels on Thursday to discuss plans to help deal with the ongoing influx of refugees from the Middle East, urging Turkey in particular to play a larger role in solving the crisis.

Last week, leaders proposed a plan to help ease the burden many European countries are facing. The plan would focus on giving Turkey more aid to assist refugees within its borders, in the hope that this would discourage them from attempting to flee to Europe.

In a speech before the Bundestag earlier Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey had to play a key rule in stemming the flow of migrants.

Other leaders echoed Merkel, pushing for Ankara to accept the plan while in some cases criticizing its apparent lack of willingness to do so.

Turkish demands for Europe

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been wary of what he sees as efforts to make Turkey shoulder more of the burden in the crisis. In exchange for backing of the plan, Erdogan has requested more incentives from Brussels, including the creation of a no-fly zone and safe area in northern Syria.

He also asked on Thursday for 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in financial assistance for Turkey.

In addition, Erdogan has pushed EU leaders to step up the accession process for Turkey, which has been on the list of potential EU member states since 1987. This includes liberalizing visa restrictions, something that has sparked concern in some EU leaders. French President Francois Hollande said at the summit that just because Brussels needs Ankara's help does not mean "that there will be unconditional visa liberalization."

Various issues, ranging from the domestic treatment of the Kurdish minority through Turkey's open border dispute with EU member state Cyprus, had brought Ankara's EU accession process to a virtual standstill.

European demands for Britain

Though much of the focus of the summit rested on Turkey, Britain and uncertain future within the EU also drew attention from leaders.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will start pushing for reforms from Brussels ahead of a planned referendum in the UK concerning the country's membership in the bloc. However, EU leaders have yet to hear what those reforms might be and are demanding that Cameron provide more details.

"It is time that Mr. Cameron put his cards on the table," said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, according to dpa news agency.

Cameron's office on Thursday said his first demands would be submitted in November in a private letter to the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

blc/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)

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