Turkey to get cash, closer EU ties at migration summit

Brussels: European Union leaders were set to sign a deal with Turkey’s prime minister at a summit today giving Ankara cash and a boost for its membership bid in exchange for its cooperation with the migrant crisis.

Desperate to stop the flow of humanity from Turkey where some 2.2 million refugees from the Syrian conflict are living, the EU offered Turkey three billion euros ($3.2 billion) to take action, according to draft summit conclusions obtained by AFP.

Turkish premier Ahmet Davutoglu, standing in for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will also be offered the opening in December of a new chapter in Turkey’s stalled accession talks for the 28-nation bloc, the draft said.

But concerns over human rights and Turkey’s role in the Syrian conflict, including the shooting down of a Russian warplane in the last week, have made EU nations wary of offering Turkey too many concessions without safeguards.

EU president Donald Tusk said in his opening speech that while the bloc was ready to help, “in return, we expect to see an immediate and substantial reduction in irregular migrants arriving in Europe, and expect Turkey under the new government to assist us.”

He added that Turkey should “uphold human rights and media freedoms.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel insisted that the EU would not give Turkey a “blank cheque” and that the aid package would be conditional on Turkey living up to its commitments to curb the flow of migrants.

For Davutoglu, however, the focus was on deepening Turkey’s ties to the EU.

“It’s a historic day in our accession process to the EU… I am thankful to all European leaders for this new beginning,” Davutoglu said.

“This meeting is not just to discuss the issue of migration which is very important for all of us, but also how to re-engergise this great ideal of uniting the EU with Turkish potential.”

Fuelled by the Syrian war, some 850,000 people have entered the EU this year and more than 3,500 have died or gone missing in what has become Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Turkey is the main gateway for migrants and refugees to reach Europe, and Germany has pushed for the summit as it is the main destination for most of the people arriving in the bloc.