Terms of Turkey, EU refugee plan remain murky
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses a press conference at the end of an EU leaders summit with Turkey centered on the the migrants crisis, at the European Council, in Brussels on March 8, 2016. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)
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Top officials in the European Union have voiced paradoxical views on the chances of reaching a deal with Turkey to halt the flow of refugees into Europe.
European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday that he was “more cautious than optimistic” about the chances of reaching an agreement with Turkey, warning that the final agreement must be endorsed by all 28 EU members; otherwise, it could not go into effect.
The comments came hours before European leaders were to meet to agree on financial and political rewards for Turkey in return for Ankara’s commitment to take back all refugees who cross from its shores to Greece.
Tusk said at a press conference that talks over the issue will be very tough and that any agreement emerging out of the negotiations must comply with international law.
The United Nations has already criticized a draft deal reached between the EU and Ankara, saying it could lead to collective punishment for refugees.
The cautious stance by Tusk came as Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, which serves as the executive body of the EU, expressed optimism that EU and Turkey would certainly reach an agreement.
“I'm pretty sure and confident that we will reach an agreement with Turkey today or tomorrow,” Juncker said Thursday.
"I would like to say that the arrangements we have with Turkey, which are not complete at the moment, will respect European law and the Geneva Convention," he added.
Turkey proposed last week to take back all refugees who cross into Europe from its soil in return for more money, faster EU membership talks and visa-free travel in the EU for its citizens.
Some smaller members of the EU like Cyprus, along with rights campaigners, have raised objections to the acceleration of Turkey's EU membership talks, saying Ankara has yet to fulfill its previous obligations.
Since January 2015, more than a million refugees have entered the EU by boat from Turkey to Greece. Most refugees are from conflict-ridden zones in the Middle East and Africa, where European powers have been blamed for not doing enough to contain the violence.
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