Europe and Turkey still looking for an agreement on migrant crisis

As EU summit gets underway in Brussels today, Commission President Juncker says he is "cautiously optimistic" about negotiations with Ankara, but the latest draft agreement with Turkey seems to fall short of Erdogan’s demands.

Brussels (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Today’s EU summit in Brussels, the third in a few weeks to deal with the wave of migrants reaching Europe, is set to finalise a deal between the 28-nation bloc and Turkey.

In exchange for its cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants into Greece, and fighting human trafficking, Ankara wants more money, an exemption from the Schengen rules, and speeded up negotiations for entry into the European Union.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is due to join the summit tomorrow.

Ahead of the summit, the European Council President Donald Tusk admitted that “a catalogue of issues “still need to be addressed “if we are to reach an agreement”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was especially adamant about it. Speaking before the German parliament, she urged EU member states to do more.

“What Turkey has done for . . . some 2.7 million refugees can't be praised highly enough,” she said. “Europe has not covered itself with glory in how, as a union of 28 member states with 500 million citizens, it has struggled with fairly sharing the burden.” 

In last week’s draft plan, EU leaders had agreed that in return for action on migrants, the EU would exempt Turkish nationals from visa requirements in June, boost financial aid to Ankara, and push talks on Turkey’s possible accession to the EU.

However, the latest draft of a proposed agreement to the Turkish government does not seem to meet Turkish demands.

First, there is no guarantee that Turkey’s application for EU membership will be accelerated – only a commitment to prepare for further negotiations in as short a time as possible.

Likewise, exemption from Schengen rules for Turkish nationals by the end of June will depend on Turkey meeting all 72 conditions set by the EU.

Finally, there is no certainty that the financial aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey will be doubled from the three billion Euros already promised since that is linked to positive results from the first payment.

In addition, there is a legal as well as an ethical issue with respect to forcing irregular migrants to go back to Turkey after they reach Greece.

Echoing such doubts but without directly mentioning the European summit, Pope Francis yesterday asked, “How is it possible that so much suffering can befall men, women and innocent children?”

 “When today’s immigrants seek refuge, they find closed doors,” the pope lamented. “And they are there, at the border because so many doors and so many hearts are closed. The immigrants of today that suffer cold, are without food and cannot enter, do not experience hospitality. It pleases me so much when I see nations, rulers that open their heart and open the doors!”

Nevertheless, “I am cautiously optimistic that we will conclude a binding agreement with Turkey,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Twitter.