The European Union has agreed to offer Turkey €3 billion in aid and the facilitation of travel visas, as well as “re-energised” talks on joining the bloc in return for its help to stop the flow of refugees to Europe.
At a summit held in Brussels yesterday evening, EU officials said they had agreed on an “action plan” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cooperate to improve the lives of the two million Syrian refugees in the country and encourage them to remain there. They also agreed on the means to coordinate to control the border in order to slow the influx of refugees.
EU sources said that Ankara requested €3 billion and that this was deemed a reasonable financial aid settlement.
The summit chairman and President of the European Council Donald Tusk said: “Our intensified meetings with Turkish leaders … in the last couple of weeks were devoted to one goal: stemming the migratory flows that go via Turkey to the EU. The action plan is a major step in this direction.”
In the final decisions, agreed upon by 28 European leaders at a meeting that ended after midnight, the EU offered Turkey an accelerated path to giving its citizens visa-free travel to the EU, provided it mets previously agreed conditions. The progression of this will be dependent on Ankara showing true assistance in slowing the flow of migrants and refugees, and it will be reviewed next spring.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed scepticism that Europe has any other solution than to rely on the Turkish President Erdogan to stem the tide. During an earlier interview with the Wall Street Journal, Orban said: “I think now the hope of the European leaders is in Erdogan. We have to pray every Sunday for the House of Erdogan.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will visit Istanbul on Sunday for talks with Erdogan ahead of the Turkish general election, said: “It is clear that Europe's efforts to filter and process refugees would not work without Turkey's cooperation.”
The European leaders agreed to “re-energise” negotiations regarding Turkey’s joining of the EU despite the fact that Turkey’s efforts to join stopped in recent years, after its interest declined and the European leaders’ criticism of Erodogan’s policies increased.