French President Francois Hollande has warned against concessions for Turkey in exchange of its cooperation on the refugee crisis. Ankara is demanding financial aid as well as a swifter action on its European Union bid.
"There cannot be any concessions on the matter of human rights or the criteria for visa liberalization," President Hollande told reporters in Brussels after meeting with leading European Social Democrats - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.
Talks between the European Union and Turkey are set to resume next week. Last week, the two parties agreed on a controversial draft deal under which Turkey would take back all migrants landing in Greece to discourage them from taking a dangerous sea route to Greek islands via people smugglers. In return, the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkish camps for every Syrian sent back from Greece.
Turkey is currently hosting about 2.7 million people, who have fled conflict and war in countries like Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Turkey also demands an additional six billion euros ($6.6 billion) from the EU, visa-free access to Europe's Schengen zone for its citizens, and more importantly a faster action on its bid to join the European Union.
The proposed EU-Turkey deal has attracted criticism from the human rights groups, with the UN officials questioning its legality. European activists have also expressed concerns over the potential compromise with Ankara, which they say has a bad human rights record. In the past few years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has increased crackdown on independent journalists and rights workers.
In addition to his inflexibility toward Turkey, the French president called for the EU to protect its external borders, suggesting it would also avoid refugee drownings in the Mediterranean Sea.
"Every country has to engage and do its part to receive refugees. But in order for the plan to be implemented quickly and entirely, there must be protection of the exterior borders," he said.
France has received considerable criticism from some EU officials for committing to take in only 30,000 refugees over two years.
Shamil Shams (AFP, dpa)