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Germany: Merkel urges compromise in EU-Turkey talk

17th Mar 2016
Germany: Merkel urges compromise in EU-Turkey talk

BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed Ankara’s proposals for deepening EU-Turkey cooperation to address the refugee crisis, and urged partners to compromise on a deal at a key summit this week.

“The far-reaching proposals of Turkish prime minister shows that we have arrived to a decisive point in European discussions to find a solution to the refugee crisis,” Merkel said during her address to the German parliament Wednesday.

“A deepened cooperation with Turkey that we are striving for is a matter of giving and receiving. It is a matter of balance of interests and compromises. That applies to both sides, equally,” she said.

Merkel’s remarks came ahead of a key European summit Thursday, where Turkish and European leaders will discuss Ankara’s proposals to deepen cooperation in addressing the refugee crisis and accelerate Turkey’s EU membership process.

German chancellor said that once agreed, the deal would discourage illegal migration, open the way for resettling some of the refugees from Turkey into Europe and bring a fair share of burden in the refugee crisis.

At an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on March 7, European and Turkish leaders agreed on the outlines of Turkish proposals, but several member states asked for more time to discuss legal and financial aspects of the proposals, and details of the resettlement plans.

Merkel acknowledged that there were still some political and legal hurdles before a final agreement based on Turkish proposals, but expressed hope for progress in talks Wednesday and Thursday.

She backed Ankara’s demand for opening new chapters in Turkey’s stalled EU membership negotiations, and said that opening chapters 23 and 24 might also create an opportunity for EU and Turkey to discuss the current deficits in democracy and human rights.

In an attempt to ease concerns of conservative lawmakers who oppose giving Turkey full EU membership, Merkel said accession negotiations are an open-ended process, and imminent membership is not on the agenda.

Since 2005, Turkey managed to open membership talks in 15 out of a total 35 “chapters”, or policy areas. Ankara has to carry out reforms and adopt EU standards in all policy chapters in order for Turkey to join the 28-member bloc.

Chapters 23 and 24, which cover rule of law and fundamental rights, are currently blocked by the Greek Cypriot administration.

Turkish proposals presented during an EU-Turkey summit on March 7 foresees closer cooperation in addressing the refugee crisis, and also revive Turkey’s EU accession talks.

The plan aims at improving conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and resettling some Syrian refugees directly from Turkey to the EU. Once agreed, the deal would see “irregular migrants” returned from Greece to Turkey.

Ankara has requested visa-free travel for its citizens by end of June and an additional three billion euros ($3.3 billion) to meet the needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey, as part of the deal.

Merkel told German lawmakers Wednesday that Ankara’s demand for visa-free travel for its nationals could be only be realized, once Turkish side meets all the criteria determined by the EU commission.

German chancellor expressed support for additional finance assistance to Turkey to improve the conditions of more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees in the country.

“Turkey’s request for additional financial assistance for refugees is perfectly understandable. The EU is also ready for that,” she said.

Merkel underlined that the EU’s financial assistance will not go to the state budget of Turkey, but will be used for projects to improve the living conditions of the refugees in the country.

Turkey, which hosts 2.7 million Syrian people since April 2011, shelters more refugees than any other country in the world, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

Syria has remained locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the government of Bashar al-Assad cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Author Ayhan Şimşek

[Photo: A refugee kid cries near camp fire at a makeshift refugee camp in the Idomeni village of Greece, near the Macedonian border on March 16, 2016. Refugees are trapped at border after Macedonia closed the border for refugees. Cold weather threatens the health of refugees. Photographer: Vedat Abdul/AA]

 

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