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Angela Merkel Discusses Solutions To Migrant Crisis At ‘EU-Turkey Summit On Refugees’

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EU-Turkey Summit on Refugees

 

 

 

 

 

 

A qualitative step closer to our goal

Turkey will halt illegal migration from Turkey to Greece and in return the European Union will take in refugees from Turkey – this was one salient point of the agreement reached at the summit meeting in Brussels. The Chancellor declared, “We are one qualitative step closer to our goal.” Details are to be settled at another summit meeting at the end of the coming week.

Immediately after the Brussels summit meeting came to a close on Monday night, Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of a “breakthrough” in the refugee crisis, if the plans are realised. She said that the summit marked “a qualitative step” forward and that it is clear that “Turkey is serious about combating illegal migration”. In return, Europe must accept its responsibility in conjunction with the conflict in Syria, said Angela Merkel.

The goal is to halt illegal migration

In Brussels the EU and Turkey agreed to consider a new course in European refugee policy. Specifically, Turkey has declared itself ready to completely halt illegal migration from Turkey to Greece. In return the EU would accept refugees directly from Turkey. Another summit meeting at the end of the coming week is to take a final decision on the package negotiated.

In their final joint statement the heads of state and government declared that bold moves were needed to
– close down people smuggling routes
– break the business model of the smugglers
– protect the external borders of the EU, and
– end the migration crisis in Europe.

Package of measures agreed

Participants also called on all NATO members to support the NATO operations in the Aegean. They welcomed the proposals made by Turkey to address the refugee crisis. In their statement they agreed:

  • to return all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands with the costs covered by the EU;
  • to resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the EU member states, within the framework of the existing commitments;
  • to accelerate the implementation of the visa liberalisation roadmap with all member states with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016;
  • to speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated 3 billion euros to ensure funding of a first set of projects before the end of March and decide on additional funding for the Refugee Facility for Syrians;
  • to prepare for the decision on the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations with Turkey as soon as possible;
  • to work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.

In Brussels, Chancellor Merkel made it plain that the Turkish proposal is a way of finding a “legal path” for migration. Time will be needed for negotiations, though, she pointed out.

Focus on addressing the root causes of migration

Turkey has pointed out that, “It wishes to receive another three billion euros by the end of 2018 to enable it to care for Syrian refugees,” explained Angela Merkel.

Discussions will now be needed, to ascertain which sum can be provided by the European Commission and the European Parliament, and what part will have to be provided by the member states. “If I look at Germany, I see that we all have very high refugee-related costs. I think it makes sense to provide assistance so that refugees can stay close to their homes, in the interests of addressing the causes of refugee movements such that they do not need to leave their home area. It makes more sense for the refugees, and the overall costs will be lower than if they all set off first on the long journey,” stressed the Chancellor.

The first measures laid out in the EU-Turkey Action Plan have already been implemented. The European Commission has provided 55 million euros for Syrian school children in Turkey. Another 40 million euros will go to the World Food Programme in conjunction with the Turkish Red Crescent Association, to supply 735,000 Syrian refugees with food.

At lunchtime on Monday the 28 heads of state or government of the EU met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. Prior to the meeting, Angela Merkel held a number of preparatory bilateral talks, also with Ahmet Davutoğlu. One day after the summit meeting in Brussels, Greece and Turkey intended to continue talks in Izmir. Angela Merkel reported that they would be discussing the swift return of certain groups of migrants.

{Source: The Federal Government of Germany}

[photo credits-featured image: By Voice of America News: Scott Bobb reports from the Suruç, Turkey/ Kobane, Syrian border; “Turkish Border Towns Hosting Thousands of Kobani Refugees”. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-QFVCnd7Po) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

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