Action plan agreed to address the refugee crisis

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EU-Turkey summit in Brussels Action plan agreed to address the refugee crisis

The EU leaders have agreed with Turkey on an action plan to reduce the influx of refugees to Europe. The EU has pledged a total of three billion euros to improve the living conditions of refugees in Turkey.

Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the French President François Hollande

Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

The EU-Turkey summit has produced concrete results. The European Union agreed an action plan with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe. The EU will provide a sum of three billion euros to finance humanitarian assistance for the over two million refugees in Turkey. Talks on visa-free travel and accession negotiations are to be speeded up. Ankara has pledged to better protect its coastline and to tackle human traffickers more effectively.

A building block in the refugee crisis

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that these concrete results make the summit meeting "another building block in European and international efforts to master the refugee crisis".

The partnership between the EU and Turkey, which is a candidate country for accession, has been given a "new impetus", she reported, not only with respect to the refugee situation. Before the meeting the Chancellor stressed that there are a great many reasons why the EU should work more closely with Turkey: the civil war in Syria, the fight against the regime of terror of the so-called Islamic State, and measures to address illegal migration all affect both EU member states and Turkey.

"When we speak about international efforts to address the refugee crisis, Turkey is a key partner for the European Union," said Chancellor Angela Merkel last Thursday during the budget debate in the German Bundestag. "If we want to return to an orderly and legal situation at the EU’s external borders, we will have to cooperate with Turkey."

Improving conditions for refugees in Turkey

The EU-Turkey action plan now agreed also aims to improve the living conditions and prospects of refugees in Turkey. The EU is to provide three billion euros for humanitarian projects. The financial assistance is to be available as of 1 January 2016.

Speaking after the summit meeting, the Chancellor stressed that the money is to be used only to finance refugee projects. This should make it possible to provide better health care and to improve the educational opportunities open to the 900,000 or so children among the refugees. Angela Merkel reported, "It is a question of improving the living conditions and wellbeing of the refugees." This should ensure that the refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war do not continue on to Europe.

In addition, joint efforts are to be made with Turkey to step up maritime rescue operations, improve border management, and intensify efforts to tackle criminal human traffickers.

Swifter negotiations on accession and visa-free travel

Accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey, which is already a candidate country for accession, are to be re-energized. Before the end of December, the EU is to open a new chapter in negotiations within the framework of the accession process. The Chancellor continued, "We will work on preparations for opening additional chapters."

Progress is also to be made on visa liberalisation. Visa requirements for Turkish citizens entering the Schengen Area could be lifted as early as 2016. The Chancellor said, "The preconditions for a dialogue with different states regarding visas are clearly defined, and it is now a question of seeing whether these preconditions can be met more rapidly."

In its turn, Turkey will speed up the question of readmitting citizens of third countries coming from the EU. A readmission agreement is to make it possible to return citizens of third countries to Turkey.

More intensive relations between the EU and Turkey

Relations between the EU and Turkey are being stepped up. In future, summit meetings are to be held with Turkey twice a year. There will be closer cooperation on other issues too. After the summit meeting Angela Merkel reported that talks had also focused on "close economic relations, in particular progress on the customs union and on cooperation in the energy sector".

The European Council President Donald Tusk issued the invitation to attend the EU-Turkey summit. On Sunday the 28 heads of state and government of the EU met with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in Brussels. The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini also attended the meeting.