Turkey: Progress Made on EU Migrant Plan But Issues Remain
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 said Sunday following a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Ahmet Davutolğu, at a joint news conference with Merkel, reiterated Turkey’s position for the need to create a safe zone in Syria to help prevent the refugee flow, adding that new conflict around the Syrian city of Aleppo has increased the risk of a new refugee influx.
Merkel arrived in Istanbul to discuss a European Union 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 3 billion euros ($3.4 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-energized 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,” 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) cooperation is also needed for a solution in Syria so that migration is stopped at its source.”
He praised Merkel for not remaining indifferent to the migrants’ plight.
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.”
Merkel later met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who vented his grievances with Europe this week, pointedly taking swipe at talk that Merkel would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants, while Turkey hosts 2 million.
Erdoğan said after the meeting that he had asked for the backing of Merkel, as well as the leaders of France, Britain and Spain, to speed up Turkey’s European Union membership bid.