EU, Turkey sign deal to stem migrant flows
The European Union clinched an agreement with Turkey on late Sunday, offering 3 billion euros in aid and more promising access for Ankara’s membership to the bloc, to trade for massive reduction of illegal migrant arrivals.
European Council President Donald Tusk made the announcement at a press conference after the first EU-Turkey summit in 11 years, attended by leaders of the 28-country bloc and visiting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Brussels has been negotiating with Ankara since September on strengthening the country’s border controls with Greece in a bid to stem the unexpected migrant or refugee influx, as the continent is experiencing the most severe migrant crisis since the aftermath of the Second World War.
Some 1.5 million illegal migrants have arrived the EU so far this year, according to Tusk. He vowed a joint effort from Turkey, where some 2.2 million Syrian refugees are living, to stem the irregular refugee flows.
Turkey’s neighboring country Greece has since spring been a gateway for 700,000 more asylum seekers, also mainly from war-torn Syria, according to International Organization for Migration.
Europeans “can and should” guard their own borders, Tusk told reporters, “But we expect a major step towards changing the rules of the game when it comes to stemming the migration flow that is coming to the EU via Turkey.”
Under the agreement, the EU will offer 3-billion-euro aid to Ankara to help improve the living conditions of millions of asylum seekers in Turkey.
Davutoglu said in the press conference that his country has spent 8 billion dollars to deal with the refugees, stressing that Europe’s 3-billion euro humanitarian aid “is given to Syrian refugees, not given to Turkey.”
The EU also agreed to speed up work on Ankara’s membership bid to the 28-nation bloc and Turkish visa-free access to the EU.