EU reaches $3bn deal with Turkey to curb refugee crisis

Ankara promised cash and closer ties with EU in return for handling the flow of refugees into Europe on its territory.

The European Union has struck a deal with Turkey in Brussels that aims to limit the flow of refugees into the continent.

Leaders from 28 EU members states met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday, finalising an agreement that offered Ankara $3.2bn, along with closer ties with the EU, in return for handling the refugees from war-torn countries on its territory.

“Our agreement sets out the clear plans for the timely re-establishment of all our shared frontier,” said Donald Tusk, the European Council president, after the meeting.

“We will also step up our assistance to Syrian refugees in Turkey through a new refugee facility of 3bn euros [$3.2bn].” 

Tusk also said Turkey’s accession process to the EU bloc would be “re-energised”.

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“But let me stress that we are not rewriting our enlargement policy. The negotiating framework and conclusions remain to apply, including its merit-based nature and the respect for the European values and also on human rights,” he said.

“This is a historic day,” Davutoglu said after the talks, thanking the leaders for the “fruitful meeting”.

He added: “This 3bn euros are not given to Turkey. It’s given to Syrian refugees.”

Turkey is the major transit point for refugees trying to enter Europe, which are expected to reach 1.5 million people this year alone.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ahead of the meeting that the EU deal with Turkey would help put the flow of refugees in a legal framework, instead of the current uncontrollable influx. 

“Turkey is hosting well over two million refugees and has received little international support so Turkey has a right to expect the European Union and its member states to help with mastering this task,” said Merkel.

“This means that refugees will have better living conditions such as the right to work and the European Union’s financial support for schooling.”

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Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel had expressed caution ahead of the meeting.

“I have no intention of agreeing to a blank cheque for Turkey,” Michel said.

“Belgium believes Turkey must take its responsibility towards a strategic partnership which is balanced, like border control for example, not just with Europe but also with Syria for example.

“I am expecting clear assurances from Turkey.”

The EU will, in December, open the next chapter of negotiations with Turkey in its accession talks with the EU, which have been dragging on since 2005, and prepare further chapters for discussion in the first three months of next year.

Ahead of the meeting, Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said Turkey had to show progress “in basic fundamentals like human rights, media freedom” and “restart the peace process with the Kurdish”.

“From today onwards, we will also, I will personally, work on a high-level dialogue with Turkey comprising all the different and sometimes difficult issues we have on the table with them – all of them, none exclusions,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies