EU and Turkey continue haggling over pivotal deal for migrants | News | DW | 07.03.2016
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EU and Turkey continue haggling over pivotal deal for migrants

Turkey has asked for an extra 3 billion euros to cooperate with the European Union (EU) on the migrant crisis. Ankara also proposed a refugee swap scheme and asked for political concessions.

Turkey surprised European leaders at an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday, tabling a last-minute proposal asking for more money and concessions in exchange for cooperation to help handle the migrant crisis.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu handed European leaders an ambitious proposal for Turkey to take in one refugee from the Greek islands in exchange for Europe agreeing to take a Syrian directly from Turkey.

The plan would in theory lead to a more organized movement of legitimate asylum seekers to Europe from Turkey, home to nearly 3 million Syrian refugees. But it would also provide for Turkey to take back hundreds of thousands of economic migrants with little prospect of receiving asylum in Europe, a key demand coming from Brussels.

Robust demands

Turkey also came to the table with more robust demands for its cooperation, asking for an additional 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) over the next three years to provide for Syrian refugees and to keep them in Turkey; visa liberalization for Turkish citizens by June and the acceleration of Turkey's stalled bid for EU membership.

"With this new proposal our objective is to rescue the lives of the refugees, to discourage those who want to misuse and exploit the desperate situation of the refugees, meaning human smugglers, and to have a new era in EU Turkey relations," Davutoglu told reporters after talks with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels during a break in the summit.

Last November, Turkey and the EU agreed on the outline of a plan that envisaged Ankara taking back some migrants and clamping down of illegal human smugglers in exchange for nearly $3 billion euros in aid and visa liberalization by the end of the year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who did not attend the summit in Brussels, said on Monday that the EU had so far failed to deliver on the promised 3 billion euros and ignored the root cause of the refugee crisis in Syria -- the Assad regime.

EU clarification sought

The proposals appeared to be welcomed by some EU officials, but it was unclear when all 28 EU member states would be able to strike a long-sought after deal with Turkey. The suddenness of the proposals forced European leaders to huddle and seek clarification.

In a sign of how difficult it may be to bring together all members' views together under a common stance, Hungarian President Viktor Orban, a strong opponent of accepting any refugees, immediately voiced his country's opposition to a refugee distribution scheme.

Hungary is part of the so-called Visegrad group -- a loose bloc opposed to the resettlement of refugees that includes Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Other EU member states such as Greece and Cyprus may have opposition to accelerating Turkey's EU bid due to outstanding territorial disputes.

Human rights

Turkey's human rights record and the deterioration in the rule of law also raises questions about whether Brussels should be advancing Turkey's EU bid.

The EU has looked to Turkey to ease the flood of migrants - nearly half of them Syrian refugees -- that have threatened to upend the European project of open borders and created a crisis between member states.

cw/jm (AFP, dpa, AP)

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