Tusk 'cautiously optimistic' over EU-Turkey refugee deal

EU president says success 'can only be achieved' if all EU member states 'keep their cool' at summit on Thursday and Friday

Tusk 'cautiously optimistic' over EU-Turkey refugee deal

World Bulletin / News Desk

European Council President Donald Tusk said he is more "cautious" than "optimistic" about all 28 EU leaders agreeing on a refugee and migrant deal with Turkey at a summit on Thursday.

"First, the agreement must be acceptable to all 28 member states, no matter [how] big or small," Tusk said in a statement ahead of the summit on Thursday.

"The agreement must effectively help to solve the migration crisis and contribute to our comprehensive strategy, which includes getting back to Schengen, ending the wave-through policy, humanitarian assistance to Greece, support to the Western Balkans and of course the reinforced cooperation with Turkey," he added.

"Only if we all work together in a coordinated manner and keep our cool, will we achieve success," Tusk said. "I am cautiously optimistic, but frankly speaking more cautious than optimistic."

Under Turkey’s proposal to the EU, the country wants the 28-nation bloc to "share the burden'' based on a formula of "for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states".

Ankara has also requested visa-free travel for its citizens by the end of June, speeding up Turkey’s accession talks, and an additional 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to meet the needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

According to a draft statement, seen by Anadolu Agency, EU member states say the visa liberalization roadmap will be accelerated "with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016."

"The EU, together with Turkey, will prepare for the decision on the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations as soon as possible, building on the October 2015 European Council conclusions," the statement added.

Turkey is hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world and has spent more than seven billion euros ($7.7 billion) on meeting the needs of the refugees, according to European Commission figures released last year.

Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed the Aegean Sea to reach Greece. This has placed a huge strain on the austerity-hit EU member and threatened the EU’s internal open border system, as countries to the north of Greece impose frontier restrictions.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Mart 2016, 14:45