Turkey, EU reach deal over refugees, accession talks

European Union settles joint action plan with Turkey in bid to curb growing refugee crisis

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) and European Council President Donald Tusk attend a news conference after a EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, Belgium November 29, 2015

Updated Nov 30, 2015

Turkey and the European Union (EU) reached a deal over aiding to Syrian refugees and acceleration of Turkey’s accession talks to the union in a summit that brought together EU leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels on Sunday.

EU confirmed that the 28-nation bloc will provide 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The agreement is not only expected to reduce the number of refugees entering the EU but also crack down on illegal human trafficking with increased border controls. 

"I can guarantee that Turkey will be completing and fulfilling all the promises mentioned in the joint action plan," Davutoglu said.

"Our ultimate target is to prevent human smugglers, prevent all type of criminal activities against refugees and regularize this flow as much as possible," he added.

Turkey is expected to expand patrols across the Aegean Sea and along its borders with Greece and Bulgaria.  

EU officials have pinpointed that the best way to reduce the influx of refugees entering Europe is to cooperate with Turkey, as it effectively managed to keep refugees within its borders in the previous years. 

Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees with almost 2.2 million refugees.

The two sides also agreed to open the 17th chapter of Turkey's EU accession process on the economic and monetary policy in December.

"We agreed that (Turkey's) accession process needs to be re-energised," European Council President Donald Tusk said in a joint press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Moreover, if Ankara meets requirements requested by the EU, visa-free access to the bloc will be granted by October 2016.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking prior to the meeting said "Turkey is hosting well over two million refugees and has received little international support so Turkey has a right to expect the European Union and its member states to help with mastering this task." 

"This means that refugees will have better living conditions such as the right to work and the European Union's financial support for schooling," Merkel added.

Thousands of refugees have been marching towards western European countries, using a route through Greece-Macedonia-Serbia-Hungary-Austria from east to west, forcing the 28-member bloc to face its worst refugee crisis in decades.

One of the most preferred transit points for refugees trying to enter Europe, is neighbouring Turkey.

TRTWorld and agencies