The European Union and Turkey aim to work together to cope with the influx of refugees. This was one important outcome of the European Council meeting. Turkey is to make commitments regarding the treatment of refugees. In return the European Union is willing to share the burden with Turkey, said Angela Merkel.
Within a short period of time an extremely "substantial migration agenda" has been elaborated and dealt with, she reported. The outlines of a cooperation arrangement with Turkey on refugees can already be seen. A "productive discussion" took place, although a lot of work still lies ahead, said Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels immediately after the European Council meeting.
For several years now Turkey has assumed responsibility for more than two million refugees in the immediate vicinity of the European Union.
"In the interests of sharing the burden and demonstrating solidarity with neighbouring states it is right for the European Union to consider how it can become involved," said Angela Merkel. In return Turkey has pledged to improve the status of refugees in Turkey. One example, said Angela Merkel, is social services for refugees in the health sector.
The Chancellor will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday (18 October). In view of this progress, her visit is taking place at a "good time" she said. In further talks with Turkey, she will be working very closely with the European Council and the Commission, she added.
In Brussels the heads of state and government also discussed speeding up the establishment and outfitting of hotspots in Italy and Greece. The Chancellor stressed that the aim is to have facilities at the EU’s external borders that will register asylum-seekers and assess their chances of being granted the right to stay. From there asylum-seekers are to be returned to their own countries or allocated to EU member states.
The European Council also looked at other measures decided by the special meeting of EU leaders on 23 September. To protect the EU’s external borders member states will have to provide more staff for Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office, confirmed the European Council.
The EU heads of state and government also discussed how to strengthen Frontex’s mandate in order to protect the EU’s external borders more effectively.
Programmes providing humanitarian aid for the refugee camps in Syria’s neighbouring states are also to receive support. They include the United Nations World Food Programme and the EU’s Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (the Madad Fund).
In a government statement on Thursday (15 October), the Chancellor stressed that Germany has provided a contribution of 100 million euros for refugee camps including those in Jordan and Lebanon. "If it should emerge that these pledges are insufficient, especially in view of the approaching winter, we will mobilise additional funds," said Angela Merkel.
In addition, funding is to be provided for the new EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund.
One cause of the refugee crisis is the continuing civil war in Syria. The Chancellor consulted with the French President and the British Prime Minister before the European Council meeting to coordinate the approaches of the three countries to resolving the Syrian conflict.
"To stabilise the situation in this country, torn by terrorism and violence, and to bring peace to Syria in the long term, we will of course need a process of political dialogue which also embraces Russia and other international and regional actors," said the Chancellor in her government statement on 15 October.
The European Council too reaffirmed that Europe is unreservedly involved in efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. There can, however, be no lasting peace under the current Syrian leadership. The European Council expressed its concern over Russian air attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and over the threat of further military escalation.
Also on the agenda of the meeting were ongoing negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron is to present his specific requests in November, and the European Council will look at this matter again in December.
The heads of state and government also took stock of the status of discussions on the development of the economic and monetary union. This point will also be on the agenda of the meeting in December.