Demanding More Cash, Erdogan Walks Out of EU Meeting Over Migrant Crisis

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives before a meeting with European Commission President and EU Council President at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 9, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)
JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images

The Islamist leader of Turkey walked out of his meeting with European Union officials after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the migrant crisis at the Greek border Monday night.

In a meeting in Brussels on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that the EU send more financial support in return for halting the flow of migration into the bloc, claiming that the cost of housing an estimated 3.5 million migrants cost Turkey €40 billion.

The meeting between Mr Erdogan and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, was cut short after just an hour and forty-five minutes after the two sides failed to reach an agreement, according to The Times.

The Turkish leader also called on the European Union to grant visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, as well as the EU taking in more refugees from the Middle East. Mr Erdogan accused the EU of failing to meet its obligations of the 2016 agreement that halted the flow of migration into the bloc in exchange for €6 billion in aid.

Acknowledging the failure of the meeting, Mrs von der Leyen said that the two sides could not agree on the terms of the agreement, saying: “The 2016 agreement remains valid and we need to implement missing elements. We have indicated to President Erdogan that we are willing to move forward as long as it is reciprocal.”

Mr Michel said that despite the failure of the meeting on Monday, talks will continue between the two sides “to work to clarify the implementation of the deal to be certain we are on the same page”.

Mr Erdogan denied responsibility for the migrant crisis, despite “opening the gates” to migration in February, saying of Greece: “It is beyond reason and understanding that an ally and a neighbouring country points toward Turkey as the one responsible for the wave of irregular migration.”

The EU shot back, accusing Turkey of using “migratory pressure for political purposes”. The bloc claims that the €6 billion financial aid package has either been spent or is currently contracted to be spent.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday, at a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that he hopes the EU-Turkey talks will lead to a “de-escalation”.

“The events of the past 10 days have made relations between the two countries even harder. This is why it is essential that Turkey makes some move of de-escalation,” Mitsotakis said per the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

“We are doomed to live together, but not in conditions of blackmail as Turkey is trying to impose on Greece and the European Union. We are never the ones to provoke, but we will respond forcefully to any challenge,” the Greek leader added.

Ms Merkel called on Turkey to end its “unacceptable” behaviour, but added that should the waves of migrants coming from Turkey stop, she would consider re-negotiating the 2016 deal.

“I strongly advocate the EU-Turkey agreement being taken into a new phase,” she said.

Germany also announced that in order to ease tensions with Turkey, it will head a so-called “coalition of the willing” of European governments to take in an estimated 1,500 child migrants currently in camps on Greek islands. So far France, Finland, Luxembourg and Portugal are the only European governments to sign up for the redistribution scheme.

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