EU lead­ers push for dif­fi­cult Turkey mi­grant deal

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

Euro­pean Union lead­ers be­gin a dif­fi­cult sum­mit on Thurs­day to push for a cru­cial agree­ment with Turkey to curb the con­ti­nent's mas­sive mi­gra­tion cri­sis de­spite threats by Cyprus to quash the deal. The pro­posed plan, which would make Turkey a cen­tral pil­lar of the di­vided EU's re­sponse to the cri­sis, has been hailed by Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel as the "first real chance" to end the in­flux of refugees and mi­grants.

But the am­bi­tious ac­cord, un­der which Turkey would take back all asy­lum seek­ers ar­riv­ing in Greece in what has be­come Europe's big­gest mi­grant cri­sis since World War II, faces sharp crit­i­cism on sev­eral fronts.

"I am cau­tiously op­ti­mistic but frankly, more cau­tious than op­ti­mistic," said Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk -- who will chair the sum­mit of 28 EU lead­ers on Thurs­day be­fore they are joined by Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu on Fri­day.

"If we keep our cool we will achieve suc­cess," Tusk added af­ter talks in Brus­sels with Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko. Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief Jean-Claude Juncker mean­while said on Twit­ter that he was "cau­tiously op­ti­mistic that we will con­clude a bind­ing agree­ment with Turkey" be­fore he held eve-of-sum­mit talks with Cyprus. The sum­mit comes as the UN said mi­grant ar­rivals in Greece alone had topped one mil­lion since Jan­uary 2015, ac­count­ing for most of the 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple who sought asy­lum in the EU last year as they flee war in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and else­where.

Tusk stressed in his sum­mit in­vi­ta­tion let­ter that the parts of the mi­gra­tion deal that in­volve "re-en­er­gis­ing" Turkey's long-stalled EU mem­ber­ship bid should also be "an op­por­tu­nity to sup­port the set­tle­ment talks in Cyprus. Only if this is pos­si­ble, can we move for­ward here."

Cyprus has threat­ened to block the deal over long-stand­ing dis­agree­ments with Ankara over the is­land, which has been di­vided since 1974 when Turk­ish troops in­vaded its north in re­sponse to an Athens-en­gi­neered coup at­tempt.

The only cap­i­tals that Tusk vis­ited this week were Nicosia and Ankara, un­der­scor­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the threat.

De­spite fran­tic ef­forts in Brus­sels to "re­bal­ance" the deal in re­cent days, Tusk has freely ad­mit­ted a ma­jor stum­bling block re­mains the le­gal­ity of the deal.

Un­der the key clause, in ex­change for Turkey tak­ing back all mi­grants ar­riv­ing in Greece, the EU will re­set­tle one Syr­ian for ev­ery Syr­ian read­mit­ted on Turk­ish soil. -

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