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Tusk: 'European consensus' emerging to tackle migration crisis

Ahead of a key summit with Turkey, European Council President Donald Tusk has said a "comprehensive strategy" is near. Tusk said Ankara has agreed to "accelerated relocation" to move migrants from Greece to Turkey.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday that he is witnessing the emergence of a "European consensus" for the first time since a wave of migration to the EU prompted a political crisis across the bloc.

"For the first time since the beginning of the migration crisis, I can see a European consensus emerging. It is a consensus around a comprehensive strategy that, if loyally implemented, can help stem the flows and tackle the crisis," Tusk said in a letter inviting EU leaders to a summit he will chair with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday.

Brussels has struggled to form a comprehensive action plan to handle the wave of people seeking refuge in the bloc. Several ex-Soviet satellite states have rejected accepting more asylum seekers under an EU quota system aimed at easing pressure from frontline countries, such as Greece and Italy.

"The political will is there, but it poses a logistical challenge, in which we have to support Greece. Prime Minister Davutoglu also confirmed Turkey's readiness to take back all migrants apprehended in Turkish waters," Tusk said.

According to Tusk, Ankara agreed to "accelerated relocation," in which migrants who do not meet the requirements for international protection are sent back to Turkey from Greece.

Tusk urged EU leaders to come together at the summit and agree to collectively use "all available EU tools" to respond to the crisis.

"On Monday, I would like us to agree that all available EU tools, including accelerated relocation, should be used to address the humanitarian consequences for the refugees, not least in Greece, in a speedy and effective way," Tusk noted.

He also referred to a new proposal from the European Commission to launch an "emergency assistance instrument" of 700 million euros, which would be used to provide Athens with the funds to accommodate asylum seekers in the country.

Ready to pay

As part of a deal between the bloc and Ankara, the EU on Friday announced that it is ready to provide Turkey with 95 million euros ($104 million) in aid.

Under the deal, Brussels will provide some 3 billion euros to Ankara in exchange for Turkey stemming a flow of migration to Greece across the Aegean Sea.

More than 800,000 migrants traversed the deadly route to Greece from Turkey in a bid to reach the EU.

Turkey has sheltered more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees since the Syrian war started in 2011.

ls/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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