Turkey: Progress made on EU plan to reduce flow of refugees

Turkey: Progress made on EU plan to reduce flow of refugees

Turkey and the European Union have made progress on a plan that aims to stem the mass movement of migrants across Europe’s borders, but several issues are still under discussion, Turkey’s prime minister has said.

Ahmet Davutoglu spoke at a joint news conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel and reiterated Turkey’s position for the need to create a safe zone in Syria to help prevent the refugee flow.

He added that new conflict around the Syrian city of Aleppo has increased the risk of a new refugee influx.

Ms Merkel arrived in Istanbul to discuss an EU plan on the migrant crisis at a time when thousands of new arrivals a day are stretching Germany’s capacity to house refugees and other migrants.

Under the plan, European countries would offer aid and concessions to Turkey in exchange for measures to halt the flow of irregular migration.

The incentives would involve an aid package of at least €3bn (£2.2 billion) to help Turkey host the more than 2 million refugees who are currently in the country, as well as easier access to EU visas for Turkish citizens and re-energised EU membership talks, officials said.

Turkey for its part would improve its asylum and documentation procedures and beef up border and coast guard numbers.

“I appreciate the progress that has been made on the action plan. However, there are several issues that still need to be discussed and solved,” Mr Davutoglu said at the news conference.

“We are prepared to work together against illegal migration and against people traffickers who exploit helpless people,” Davutoglu said. “(But) co-operation is also needed for a solution in Syria so that migration is stopped at its source.”

He praised Ms Merkel for not remaining indifferent to the migrants’ plight.

Ms Merkel, who is under increasing pressure at home to reduce the influx of migrants, said the two leaders agreed that no country can shoulder the refugee burden alone, saying “the job has to be shared and that the European Union has a job here”.

She underlined Germany’s willingness to support EU efforts to make it easier for Turks to get visas, and made clear that it expects faster implementation of an agreement to take back migrants from third countries in exchange.

She also said Germany was ready to back the start of Turkey’s stalled EU entry talks on a policy area, or chapter, concerning the economy and monetary policy.

Ms Merkel acknowledged that “Turkey has received little international support so far for a great effort to take care of refugees” from Syria and Iraq, and underlined the EU’s intention to provide greater financial support“.

She said that “this is about additional money, as we understand it; we still have to talk about the details, of course”.

Ms Merkel later met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who vented his grievances with Europe this week, pointedly taking swipe at talk that the German chancellor would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants, while Turkey hosts 2 million.

Mr Erdogan said after the meeting that he had asked for the backing of Ms Merkel, as well as the leaders of France, Britain and Spain, to speed up Turkey’s EU membership bid.

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