EU says Turkey’s cooperation on refugees insufficient
The European Union has expressed its dismay at Turkey’s insufficient cooperation on the issue of refugees, saying the bloc is far from satisfied with the actions Ankara has taken to stem the flow into European countries.
“We have seen the first results which are encouraging, but we are a long way from being satisfied,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Thursday, adding that discussions are underway between the two sides to improve cooperation.
Officials from the EU and Turkey agreed late last year on a joint plan of action to halt the outflow of refugees from Turkey, which is hosting more than two million people from Syria, which has been hit by a deadly crisis since March 2011. Damascus says foreign support for militants wreaking havoc in the country is the main reason for the displacement and exodus of Syrians.
The EU has vowed to give Ankara three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid, to resume talks on Turkey’s membership in the bloc and end the visa requirements for Turkish nationals visiting EU’s passport-free Schengen zone.
In return, Turkey has pledged to crack down on people smugglers and cooperate with the EU on taking back economic asylum-seekers who do not qualify as refugees.
Timmermans, a former Dutch foreign minister who has led the EU talks with Ankara, told a press conference in Amsterdam that he will travel to Turkey next Sunday to discuss more details of the agreement.
His comments came at the start of the Netherlands’ six-month presidency over the EU, a period in which many hope for enhanced border security and a fair sharing of the refugee burden by the 28 members of the bloc.
Europe is facing its worst refugee crisis in decades, with more than one million people having already crossed the European borders this year. Most of refugees are escaping the foreign-backed militancy in the Middle East while there are also refugees coming from impoverished African states.