EU–Turkey summit to try to save Schengen
An EU–Turkey summit focusing on stemming the flow of migrants to Europe will be held in Brussels today. EU leaders will discuss an action plan to stop the migrant flow to Europe through the territory of Turkey with the country's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The EU wants to limit the number of migrants by one thousand people per day, while this figure ranged from 2 to 2.5 thousand people a day in the first two months of 2016.
The Turkish-Balkan route has been a major transit corridor for illegal migrants into the EU since the autumn of 2015. They mainly came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to Turkey. From there, illegal migrants travel across the Aegean Sea to the coast of Greece and then into the Schengen zone through the Balkan states, TASS reports.
The EU and Turkey worked out an action plan to limit the migrant flow at the last summit on November 29-30, 2015. Brussels has promised Ankara €3 billion for its performance to meet the needs of migrants on Turkish territory. However, the EU countries have not noticed any significant reduction in the flow of refugees, which puts the provision of financial assistance to Turkey into question.
In addition, the EU will try to fix Ankara's willingness to take back migrants who are denied asylum in Europe.
The EU also intends to invite Ankara to create centers for asylum seekers on Turkish territory. Refugees whose petitions are approved would be able to come to Europe legally.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron will call on EU partners at the summit to support Ankara and to provide Athens with technical assistance to prevent illegal migration.
"At an EU summit in Brussels today, the Prime Minister will call on European partners to focus on 3 priorities: breaking the link between getting on a boat and getting resettlement in Europe by smashing the trafficking gangs and increasing the return of illegal migrants; supporting Turkey, already hosting 2.6 million migrants and with many more sheltering on its border with Syria; providing technical assistance to Greece so it can accelerate the processing of migrant claims and return illegal migrants to their countries of origin," the minister's press service said.
Noting that "the migration crisis is the greatest challenge facing Europe today," Cameron informed the British public that Royal Navy ships have joined the NATO mission to combat the migration crisis in the Aegean.
"Britain has not faced anywhere near the scale of migrants coming to Europe as other countries, because we are out of Schengen and retain control of our borders. But where we can help, we should," the UK Prime Minister said, stressing that NATO's mission in the Aegean sea is an opportunity to stop the smugglers and send out a clear message to migrants contemplating journeys to Europe that they will be turned back.
On the eve of the summit, the European Council President Donald Tusk visited several countries of the Western Balkans route and Ankara on March 3. He said following the talks with Davutolgu: "We agree that the refugee flows still remain far too high and that further action is needed. It is for Turkey to decide how best to achieve such a reduction".
According to Tusk, it is necessary to to ship irregular migrants back to Turkey. "It would effectively break the business model of the smugglers," he said.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly stated since the beginning of the year that Ankara could "open its borders for millions of refugees seeking asylum in Europe."
The Syrian settlement will also be discussed at the summit, because the war in Syria is one of the main causes of the "immigration boom".
After the EU- Turkey summit Davutoglu will travel to the NATO headquarters to inform the NATO Secretary-General on the results of the negotiations. At the same time European leaders will discuss the results of the discussion.
The second topic of the summit will be the European Commission's plan to restore the normal functioning of the Schengen area by the end of this year.