European Council President Tusk heads to Athens for migrant talks

European Council President Donald Tusk visits Greece and Turkey Thursday and Friday to discuss the migrant crisis at its front lines.

Tusk is aiming to ease tensions among European Union members before a meeting with Turkey on the migration issue. The meeting is scheduled for Monday in Brussels.

Tusk is expected to hold talks with Greek officials in Athens Thursday, followed on Friday by a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.

Turkey, Greece, and other Balkan nations are dealing with an overload of migrants from the Middle East and northern Africa who want to pass through on their way west, to Germany and other wealthier nations. Greece, which was already in a tight financial situation before the migrant crisis began, has asked for more than $500 million from the European Union to help it handle expenses.

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides wants the EU to pass a plan earmarking $760 million in aid for the refugee crisis.

Stylianides says that the aid package would be in addition to funds already being spent on “hot spots” and other programs to help countries deal with the crisis and migrant needs. The EU also wants migrant flow from Turkey to drop below 1,000 a day.

The proposal needs the approval of the European Parliament and member states.

Before his departure Wednesday, Tusk said he will press for “a more intensive engagement” with Turkey to implement the deal signed with the EU in November to curb the stream of refugees.

Turkey has offered to sign readmission agreements with 14 countries, which would enable Ankara to quickly take back migrants rejected by the EU, a foreign ministry spokesman said.


(Photo of Tusk: EC Audiovisual Service)