Turkey raises price of refugee deal at summit
TURKEY yesterday sought more EU cash, accelerated membership talks and faster visa- free travel for its citizens in return for doing more to tackle the migrant crisis.
Leaders of the 28 EU states including David Cameron met Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels for a summit aimed at stemming the fl ow of people into Europe, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
No agreement had been reached when offi cial talks ended last night but leaders will continue to work on the Turkish plan in the coming days, an EU offi cial said.
More than 2,000 migrants arrive daily in Greece from Turkey, which is also sheltering some 2.5 million refugees from neighbouring Syria, hoping to reach richer countries like Germany and Britain.
Ahead of the talks Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan underlined tensions when he accused the EU of failing to deliver promised help with hosting refugees.
But a leaked draft proposal later showed the EU was ready to offer Turkey another £ 2.3billion – double the sum proposed in November.
It also said that for each migrant refused asylum who Turkey took back from the overwhelmed Greek islands, EU member states would accept one Syrian refugee from Turkey. And it proposed easing visa requirements for Turks visiting Europe’s Schengen travel zone to the end of June – months earlier than previously planned.
It also referred to the next stage of talks about Turkey joining the EU, which some oppose because of its poor human rights record.
Later Downing Street defended co- operating with the Turkish state, which had taken over a major opposition newspaper at the weekend. A spokeswoman said it was in Britain’s interests to work with Turkey.
A Brussels offi cial said afterwards: “Turkey is offering more and demanding more.”
DAVID CAMERON has based his campaign for Britain to remain a member of the EU around the conceit that we are better off with the devil we know. Why take the risk of leaving the EU, he asserts, when we can stay with the comfy arrangement we have already?
Yesterday, though, he inadvertently reminded us that staying in the EU is not a safe, steady option at all. He headed off to Brussels for a summit between EU leaders and Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davu t oglu that, although focused on the immediate problem of how to deal with the migration crisis, could prove to be a huge push forwards for Turkey’s ambitions to join the EU.
Last time EU leaders met with Turkey in October, the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear he is going to use the crisis to try to force Turkey’s entry into the EU. He dismissed an offer of cash for migrant camps and fast- track visas for Turkish citizens to visit the EU – saying that if the EU wanted co- operation with Turkey on migrants nothing short of full membership would do.
TURKEY is the elephant that the In campaign would rather we ignored. While Turkey, as a member of Nato, is our military ally and a trading partner, it is a long way from a state of development consistent with EU membership. Its GDP per capita, at £ 14,000, is less than half that of Britain. In the EU only Bulgaria is poorer.
But the outright figure disguises the huge gulf in personal wealth there. Nearly a quarter of the population is living below the official poverty line of £ 84 a month. If Turkey was admitted to the EU and its citizens allowed the same rights to free movement we have already seen from accession countries in Eastern Europe it would set off a flood of migration that would make the existing stream look like a trickle.
If Turks moved to Britain in the same proportion as Poles have already done it would mean an extra 1.3 million migrants from Turkey, many of them unskilled and yet eligible for benefits from the moment they arrived – or when David Cameron’s much- vaunted but very temporary “emergency brake” was released. Not only