European leaders prepare for EU-Turkey summit on refugees

European Council President Donald Tusk warns that Europe must win 'race against time' to stop flow of refugees as EU leaders agree to hold talk with Turkey for solution

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

European Council President Donald Tusk speaks at a news conference after the Valletta Summit on Migration.

Updated Nov 13, 2015

European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to call for an EU-Turkey joint summit as they seek a solution to stop the chaotic flow of refugees threatening Europe’s unity and open boarder policy.

Since last month the EU and Ankara have been negotiating over the issue and aim to hold a summit concerning the refugees.

Twenty eight European Union leaders alongside Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan are expected to attend the summit in Brussels later this month.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who recently led an emergency meeting of EU leaders with African counterparts, warned leaders that they must win a "race against time" to slow the flow of refugees through Greece if Europe is to safeguard the Schengen zone of passport-free travel within the bloc from being choked by new national barriers and controls.  

"Saving Schengen is a race against time. And we are determined to win that race," Tusk said.

"Without effective border control, the Schengen rules will not survive," he added. "We must hurry, but without panic."

The European Union has offered Turkey almost €3 billion ($3.3 billion) in aid, easier travel visas along with “re-energised” talks over Turkey's EU accession process.

In return, the EU has asked for Turkey’s help in stopping the flow of refugees and agreed on increased border controls to slow the influx.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose country has received over 600,000 refugees travelling from Turkey en route to Germany and northern Europe, said it was obvious EU's salvation lay with Turkey, a NATO ally and a Muslim country seeking to join the European Union. 

"It is obvious that the only real chance of stopping these flows is reaching an understanding with Turkey," the Greek prime minister said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Turkey and met with her Turkish counterparts on Oct. 18,  primarily focusing on the increased refugee flow.

She previously declared that Europe’s effort to filter and process the refugees would not work without Turkey's cooperation and called for the sharing of Turkey's burden.

The EU-Turkey summit would, Merkel said, "demonstrate that we will work very closely with each other and that we sensibly share out the challenges arising from the civil war in Syria."

The EU will also consider increasing assistance to Lebanon and Jordan, which are also hosting large numbers of refugees, officials said.

Turkey has spent more than $8 billion of its own resources on the more than 2 million Syrian refugees in the country.

Turkey is a transit point for refugees aiming to reach European countries from Syria because of its geography, bridging the Middle East with Europe.

Syrian refugees escaping the violence in their country fled Syria in large numbers following the escalation of the Syrian Civil War in 2012.


TRTWorld and agencies