"At the end of November or beginning of December" there is to be an EU-Turkey summit, reported Chancellor Angela Merkel after the meeting. The intention is to demonstrate that the countries are cooperating closely in the face of the refugee crisis, and that the challenge is being "shared reasonably".
Directly after the EU-Africa summit in Malta, the European leaders met on Thursday afternoon in Valletta for an informal meeting of the European Council, called by European Council President Donald Tusk.
Participants took a detailed look at the EU-Turkey action plan, which is currently being negotiated by the European Commission and Turkey. The aim is to reduce migratory flows and fight the causes of migration. There is to be greater cooperation in the field of refugee assistance and migration management.
To share the financial burden borne by Turkey, which has taken in a huge number of refugees, the EU intends to provide a sum of three billion euros for 2016 and 2017.
The process of visa liberalisation is also to be speeded up, without, however, deviating from the standards adopted vis à vis other countries, stressed Angela Merkel. The meeting also looked at opening additional chapters in the EU accession process for Turkey.
Like Turkey, Syria’s neighbours Jordan and Lebanon have taken in a large number of refugees from the civil-war-torn country. The EU has thus raised the level of financial support for refugee camps in these countries.
In the foreseeable future, EU summit meetings are also to be held with these two countries, in order to "express our solidarity", said the Chancellor.
At their meeting, the heads of state and government were also updated on the status of establishing the so-called hotspots, or registration and reception centres in Greece and Italy. Work is proceeding apace, said the Chancellor. Things could still move more swiftly, but the concepts are now firmly in place.
The concept of the hotspots too was discussed in detail. It was noted that as well as registering refugees it is a question of returning migrants with no entitlement to asylum. This is an "extensive duty arising from the responsibility of countries with external EU borders," said Angela Merkel.
Registration at the hotspots is an essential precondition for the reallocation of refugees within the EU. Refugees arriving in Greece, for instance, are to be registered in the hotspots there and reallocated to other EU states. The EU intends to distribute 160,000 people directly to other host countries. Some countries, including Sweden and Luxembourg, have already taken in refugees. This process is to be speeded up. "In view of the very small number of refugees reallocated until now, a massive task lies ahead," stressed the Chancellor.
Progress has also been made on providing the additional personnel requested by the EU’s external border management agency Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), to be provided by EU member states. More staff have now been offered, reported Angela Merkel, especially by Central and Eastern European states. The EU is now in a position to provide more or less the human resources requested by Frontex and EASO. Angela Merkel said this is a "positive message".