EU migrant deal with Turkey in sight at Brussels summit

Gathered for a make-or-break summit on clinching a migrant deal with Turkey, EU leaders have agreed their position. The bloc will now deliver their proposal to Turkish leaders.

It was shortly after midnight, after hours of negotiations, but still much earlier than many had anticipated, when news came in that leaders of the EU’s 28 member states had agreed a position.

Most prime ministers and presidents left the summit venue without any comment.

Still, it seemed that any resistance from Cyprus had been broken, any concerns about human rights– more or less – addressed, and the problem posed by visa liberaliziation almost, if not entirely, solved.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the few to give what she called a “sketchy overview”: Negotiations had been held in a “constructive atmosphere,” demands such as lifting visa restrictments on Turkish citizens travelling to Europe had been discussed, but obviously, while cornerstones of a EU-Turkey deal had been discussed, this had only been a first step.

With that, Merkel smiled, adding that she hoped to see the press corps again “later today.”

Over a dinner of shellfish, chicken and orange parfait, EU leaders had talked about a plan which the Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu had first presented to EU leaders on March 7.

According to this proposal, Turkey would take in all migrants illegaly arriving in Greece via the Aegean Sea, starting at a yet to be determined date. For any Syrian sent back to Turkey, the EU would in return allow one Syrian stranded in a Turkish refugee camp to legally enter the EU.

EU leaders hope that such an arrangement would have a deterring effect, because any migrant illegally arriving on European shores would have to join the end of the queue. At least in theory, what EU politicians like to call the “business model” of people smugglers, would thus be destroyed.

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(Photo: EC Audiovisual Service)