Turkish, EU leaders reach agreement in principle on refuge action plan

ALI ÜNAL @ali_unal
Published 17.11.2015 21:38
Updated 17.11.2015 21:39
President Erdoğan (C) at a meeting with European Council President Tusk (L) and European Commission President Juncker on Monday.
President Erdoğan (C) at a meeting with European Council President Tusk (L) and European Commission President Juncker on Monday.

After the completion of the G20 summit in Antalya, President Erdoğan held a meeting with the presidents of the European Council and European Commission to discuss the draft refugee action plan and reportedly reached a principle agreement to overcome the growing refugee crisis

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday evening to discuss details of the agreement between the European Union and Turkey on the refugee issues and acceleration of Turkish-EU negotiation process on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Antalya.

Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu and EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Beril Dedeoğlu were also present at the meeting alongside the Turkish and European leaders. Diplomatic sources spoke to Daily Sabah and said that at the end of the meeting Turkey principally agreed with the EU refugee action plan and the EU assured Turkey it would accelerate accession negotiations by opening new chapters. The EU refugee action plan offers 3 billion euros to Ankara in return for systematizing the refugee flows to Europe. According to the plan, Turkey will use the EU's financial support for refugees and register refugees and EU countries will accept a certain number of refugees each year. The source also indicated that Turkey and the EU will hold a refugee summit in Brussels on Nov. 29 at which time the EU refugee action plan is expected to be sealed.Regarding the Turkey's EU negotiation process, the EU will hold an inter-governmental meeting in December to open Chapter 17 on economic and monetary policies. Chapter 22, which covers regional policy and coordination of structural instruments, was the last chapter opened in November 2013. Therefore, the opening of a new chapter following a two-year hiatus is considered a sign that accession talks are getting back on track.

In addition, sources added that Ankara also requested the opening of at least two more chapters from the EU leaders, Chapter 23 on judicial and fundamental rights and Chapter 24 on justice, security and freedoms to revitalize the negotiations process. The European Commission's 2015 Turkey Progress Report, which was released on Nov. 10 already proposed to open Chapter 17 and stated that the opening benchmarks for Chapters 23 and 24 on the rule of law still need to be defined so as to provide Turkey with a road map for reforms in these essential areas.

The issue of early implementation of Turkey's readmission agreement for third countries was also discussed in the meeting. Accordingly Turkey accepted to implement the agreement by the end of 2016. In return EU leaders agreed to speed up the implementation of the visa-free regime to Turkish citizens to the Schengen zone.

After Turkey and the EU side reach a final agreement on Nov. 29 in Brussels, the agreement needs to be ratified by the leaders of the governments. Therefore European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, who visited Ankara in last week, will present the agreement to the EU Council in December to seek unanimous approval.

Overwhelmed by the largest refugee crisis since World War II, the European Union was hoping to see a strong single-party government in Turkey, putting all of its plans on hold with Ankara until after the Nov. 1 elections. EU leaders reiterated the importance of Ankara in coping with the crisis and decided to organize a summit that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will likely attend. Ankara is now seen as the EU's most vital partner in tackling the refugee issue.

Amid debates about how to ease the worsening crisis, the 28-bloc union is also faced with the possible collapse of its Schengen system that allows EU citizens to travel visa-free within EU borders. EU Council President Donald Tusk argued that saving the system "is a race against time" and added: "Without effective control of our external borders, Schengen will not survive. We must hurry, but without panic."

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