Negotiations could reopen prospect of Turkey joining bloc
Turkey pushed the EU to breach Geneva Convention rules on asylum while the EU refused to officially say that the Balkan route for mainly Syrian refugees was closed despite countries having shut their borders.
Turkey, that has 2.8m from neighbouring Syria seeking safety, raised the stakes just hours before the meeting that was meant to last just a few short hours.
They made new proposals that would appear to help the EU dig itself out of the near impossible situation with thousands of migrants crossing mainly to Greece daily.
Apart from doubling the €3bn the EU promised them last November to €6bn over the next two years to care for their Syrian refugees, they also want short stay visa-free travel that would mainly facilitate students and business people, by June.
Unexpectedly they agreed to take back migrants that came through Turkey — as most now do — in exchange for the EU taking an equal number of bone fide refugees.
This was posing some problems however as they say that the Greek islands, that are housing most of the refugees must be cleared first and they will only take those that arrive after that.
However this will require EU member states to agree to take these refugees — something they have more or less failed to do so far.
The European Commission is to propose that in future all asylum seekers would be pooled among the Schengen states, which does not include Ireland or Britain.
Turkey also demanded that five chapters be opened immediately to progress their EU accession — something that in 2005 they were assured would be finalised by 2015.
While negotiations can begin on these, finalising them would require the agreement of all member states and Cyprus has blocked so far while France is not enthusiastic either.
The temperature was also raised over the weekend by the government seizure of the country’s main daily newspaper, Zamen, that was critical of the president Recep Erdogan.
Turkey also wants support for a “no-fly” zone around part of the border with Syria where Syrians fleeing other parts of their country could be reassured of being safe.
However this would also need a lot of international and UN Security Council agreement and a reassurance that asylum rights would be respected.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny brought a message he had received from the aid agency, Goal, to the meeting, warning that the shutting of the border crossing between Turkey and Syria at Bab al-Hawa, through which mostly Irish aid travels to a million people, would force more to flee into the EU.
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