After a late-night meeting in Brussels in which European leaders agreed to increase financial support to Turkey to improve conditions for refugees within the country, Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen praised the plan for moving the EU closer to a real solution to the ongoing refugee crisis.
“Where the debate just a few weeks ago was about finding a way to distribute the refugees amongst us, there has now come a much stronger focus on our need to do something more fundamental to stop the influx into Europe. So the discussion is no longer a discussion of how we share the problem but rather how we do something about the problem,” Rasmussen told reporters after the late-night meeting.
The deal reached with Turkey calls for the nation to strengthen its border controls, tackle people-smugglers and take additional measures to keep more of the millions of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict from crossing by sea to Europe.
The deal came after European Commission officials visited Turkey on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to persuade the government to sign up to the plan, following a visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Brussels last week.
Turkish officials presented their EU counterparts with a “wish list” during the talks in Ankara on Thursday, which European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker later talked the leaders through at their summit in Brussels.
The demands included €3 billion in new aid – three times the amount the EU has up until now offered – easing visa restrictions, opening new chapters in Turkey's long-stalled accession negotiations for EU membership, being included on the list of “safe countries” for asylum and to have more Turkey-EU summits, an EU source said.
The plan’s financial aspects have not been finalized and it will still need the approval of the EU member states, but Rasmussen said he considered it a done deal.
“There are positive assurances from all government leaders so I consider it a reality that there is a deal,” he told reporters.
The Local Germany has more on the EU-Turkey deal here.