Following yesterday’s meeting with Turkey’s Prime Minister Davutoğlu (7.3) on the refugee and migrant situation, in particular as regards the Western Balkans route, the EU heads of state or government issued a joint statement and agreed to follow up at the scheduled EU summit in Brusselson March 17-18 when the final decisions will be taken.
The EU leaders discussed the implementation of the EU-Turkey joint action plan and agreed with Prime Minister Davutoğlu to strengthen their cooperation in order to achieve concrete results on the ground, welcoming Turkey’s commitment to accept the speedy return of all migrants coming to Greece from Turkey who are not in need of international protection. They also welcomed the agreed NATO activity in the Aegean Sea with a view to stemming migrant crossings.
Some new breakthrough proposals to address the migration crisis were also discussed during the meeting, including: the return of all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands; speeding up disbursement of the 3 billlion euros aid fund and additional funding for the refugee facility for Syrians in Turkey and a resettlement deal dictating that for every refugee from the Greek islands Turkey takes back, it can send a Syrian refugee to Europe to be accommodated in an EU state.
“I think that the results of the summit could only be described as a step forward,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said early on Tuesday (8.3). The Greek Prime Minister expressed content over the change of climate in the EU summit and the fact that “the discussion was focused on finding a substantial solution for curtailing refugee flows from Turkey in cooperation with Turkey,” he underlined adding that Turkey brought to the table some “tempting proposals,” surprising many. The PM stressed, however, that these proposals included some key details that need to be worked out.
The discussions will continue today (8.3) in Izmir, where a meeting to update the Greece-Turkey Readmission Agreement will take place. This renewed agreement “can be the first step for combating traffickers”, noted Tsipras.
Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis stated that “there was convergence in practical issues and this is positive. We did not reach an agreement because Turkey’s proposals were extremely radical for the majority of the EU member states.”
“There was progress for Greece in relation to the rapid readmission of migrants to Turkey which sends also a message to migrants not to follow this route. Europe is putting pressure so that something changes until March 17, but the legal and institutional framework is based on a Greek-Turkish bilateral agreement on the implementation and acceleration of the readmission process. Turkey has shown that it wants to cooperate”, stressed Xydakis.