Turkey has made a series of steep last minute demands ahead of today’s talks with the European Union (EU). Diplomats say the migrant crisis deal is now in danger, but Turkey has insisted they’re not “blackmailing” the EU.
The Turkish delegation demanded an increase on the €3 billion in aid previously promised by Brussels, faster access to Schengen visas for Turkey’s 75 million citizens, and accelerated progress in its EU membership bid.
They insist that Europe should pay for the all of the municipal infrastructure costs, health, education and material support required by the Syrian refugees who remain in Turkey.
The figure demanded is an additional €20 billion, according to a source quoted by Reuters, who allege that the Turkish Prime Minister made the demand to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch PM Mark Rutte last night.
According to the Financial Times, four diplomats involved in the talks have said the revised demands will be extremely challenging and could blow apart the fragile consensus on the sweeteners already offered to Ankara.
The paper reports that one diplomat said the additional demands could make for a “train wreck”. Another compared the haggling to a “Turkish bazaar”.
The EU has already warned that Turkey’s crack down on press freedom and failure to recognise Cyprus could endanger its membership bid.
However, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claimed that the proposed deal demonstrated “how indispensable the EU is for Turkey and Turkey for the EU”. Speaking before the meeting, he added: “The whole future of Europe is on the table.”
— EU Council Press (@EUCouncilPress) March 7, 2016
Turkey has already been slammed by the EU for doing virtually nothing to stem migrant numbers since the deal was first agreed, and on the 11th of January President Erdoğan promised to “open the gates” to hundred of thousands of migrants who could be transported into Europe by “bus” and even “plane”, unless his demands were met.
This morning, Turkey’s deputy ambassador to Britain told BBC Radio 4 that his nation was not “blackmailing” the EU. Cem Işik said:
“Turkey is not blackmailing Europe but it’s disheartening to see that Europe only remembered Turkey after the migrant crisis last summer”.
Explaining: “Turkey joining the European Union is a strategic objective – it’s being going on for decade.
“For years the EU was reluctant to take on Turkey as a member state because it didn’t want problems relating to Iraq and Syria at its border – now you can see how short-sighted that was.”
Finding a solution to the crisis is now more pressing than ever. Around 140,000 migrants have reached Greece from Turkey so far this year, and another 100,000 are likely to arrive by the end the month, Europe’s migration commissioner warned on Saturday.
As the numbers grow, however, the Balkans route has effectively been closed off and the majority will remain trapped in Greece. Huge fences have gone up on the Macedonian, Hungarian and Bulgarian borders.
Despite this reality, this morning German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that “closing borders” is “not an option” and demanded a sentence declaring the “western Balkans [migrant] route closed” be crossed out in a join statement made by the summit.
Also speaking before the meeting, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said: “There have been agreements that were not implemented by everyone. This cannot be the case. There are either agreements that we implement or no agreements at all. Everyone needs to implement common decisions.”