EU and Turkey set to sign multi-billion euro migration deal
EU set to pledge €3bn to upgrade Turkish refugee camps - in a bid to discourage people from fleeing to Europe
EU leaders are poised to hand Turkey billions in aid and make concessions on visas and EU membership to secure the country’s help in stemming the flow of refugees to Europe.
At a snap summit with Turkey in Brussels tonight, they were set to pledge €3 billion to upgrade Turkish refugee camps, in a bid to discourage people from fleeing to Europe.
It was not clear now much Ireland and other EU countries would be asked to commit, with a draft leaders’ statement saying that “the need for and nature of this funding will be reviewed in the light of the developing situation”.
The deal would lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens entering the 25-country Schengen zone - which doesn’t include Ireland - by October 2016, and restart stalled membership talks by next spring.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the trade-off would mean Turkey doing more to improve the lives of refugees in the country.
“Turkey will undertake to enhance the facilities and the presentation of proper camps and all that goes along with that in Turkey, in an effort to confine the numbers moving from Turkey,” he said.
The EU agreed in the autumn to resettle 160,000 people in need of international protection, with Ireland agreeing to take in 4000.
But the flow of refugees, especially from Syria and Iraq, has not stopped, with 1.5 million people entering the EU illegally in 2015 alone, and most of them through Turkey.
Turkey now hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, including around 2.2 million Syrians fleeing a civil war that has been raging for more than four years.
The war has led to the proliferation of terrorist groups, including Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for for the attacks in Paris on 13 November.
French President François Hollande said that aside from the refugee issue, it was necessary to have “cooperation with Turkey to fight against trafficking, to act against terrorism… and also to find a solution in Syria”.
“The tragic attacks in Paris demonstrated that our fight against terrorism has to enter a new phase,” said Donald Tusk, who chairs the summits of EU leaders. “This will be a common task for the EU and Turkey. Without a quick and lasting solution to the crisis in Syria, people will still be fleeing the war.”
Tensions have risen since Turkey shot down a Russian jet on the Syrian-Turkish border last week, an issue Mr Kenny said was “critical” but which was not a priority at the Brussels meeting.
“Clearly it’s an issue of enormous concern,” Mr Kenny said. “The impact of this meeting is to get a conclusion and an agreement in respect of the migration issue,” Mr Kenny said.
To combat terrorism, EU leaders were discussing more regular leaders’ and ministerial meetings with Turkey on foreign and security policy.
The three-hour meeting was organised at the last minute - at Turkey’s insistence - despite EU leaders needing to travel to Paris today [MON] for UN climate talks.
The Taoiseach said that at the UN talks he would sign up to “measurable and achievable” targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as long as they take account of Ireland’s heavy reliance on agriculture.
“Our profile is very much different than any other European country because of the scale and indeed the credibility and integrity of what our agri sector is now able to do,” the Taoiseach said.
“Our people at all levels will have to work very challengingly in the time ahead to get a set of targets that are achievable and that are fair and balanced and sustainable in Ireland’s case,” Mr Kenny said.
In October last year EU leaders agreed that agriculture and land use should be included in setting calculating national emission reduction targets, meaning Ireland should be able to offset high emissions from agricultural against climate-friendly forests and boglands.
National targets will be hammered out by officials between now and February, following the Paris summit.