BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Following is a draft EU statement with Turkey circulated by European Council President Donald Tusk to EU member states on Wednesday and seen by Reuters.
EU leaders will discuss it at a summit on Thursday chaired by Tusk and hope to finalise a text with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu when he joins them in Brussels on Friday.
”Today the Members of the European Council met with their Turkish counterpart. This was the third meeting since November 2015 dedicated to deepening Turkey-EU relations as well as addressing the migration crisis.
The Members of the European Council expressed their deepest condolences to the people of Turkey following the bomb attack in Ankara on Sunday and reiterated their continued support to fight terrorism in all its forms.
Turkey and the European Union reconfirmed their commitment to the implementation of their joint action plan activated on 29 November 2015. Much progress has been achieved already, including Turkey’s opening of its labour market to Syrians under temporary protection, the introduction of new visa requirements for Syrians and other nationalities, stepped up security efforts by the Turkish coast guard and police and enhanced information sharing. Moreover, the European Union has begun disbursing the 3 billion euros of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey for concrete projects and work has advanced on visa liberalisation and in the accession talks, including the opening of Chapter 17 last December. On 7 March 2016, Turkey furthermore agreed to accept the rapid return of all migrants not in need of international protection crossing from Turkey into Greece and to take back all irregular migrants intercepted in Turkish waters. Turkey and the EU also agreed to continue stepping up measures against migrant smugglers and welcomed the establishment of the NATO activity on the Aegean Sea.
At the same time Turkey and the EU recognise that further, swift and determined efforts are needed.
In order to break the business model of the smugglers and to offer migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk, the EU and Turkey today decided to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU. In order to achieve this goal, they agreed on the following additional action points:
1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands will be returned to Turkey. This will be a temporary and extraordinary measure which is necessary to end the human suffering and restore public order. Migrants arriving in the Greek islands will be duly registered and any application for asylum will be processed by the Greek authorities in accordance with the Asylum Procedures Directive. Migrants not applying for asylum or whose application has been found unfounded or inadmissible in accordance with the said directive will be returned to Turkey. Turkey and Greece, assisted by EU institutions and agencies, will take the necessary steps and agree any necessary bilateral arrangements, including the presence of Turkish officials on Greek islands, to ensure liaison and thereby facilitate the smooth functioning of these arrangements. The costs will be covered by the EU. The Members of the European Council welcome Turkey’s commitment that migrants returned to Turkey will be protected in accordance with the international standards concerning the treatment of refugees and respecting the principle of non-refoulement. Greece agreed to ensure that migrants already on the Greek islands will be transferred to reception centres on the Greek mainland.
2. For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU. A mechanism will be established by Turkey and Greece, with the assistance of the Commission, EU agencies and other Member States, as well as the UNHCR, to ensure that this principle will be implemented over time. Priority will be given to migrants who have not previously entered or tried to enter the EU irregularly. On the EU side, resettlement under this mechanism will take place, in the first instance, by honouring the commitments taken by Member States in the conclusions of Representatives of the Governments of Member States meeting within the Council on 22 July 2015, of which 18.000 places for resettlement remain. Any further need for resettlement will be carried out through a similar voluntary arrangement up to a limit of an additional 54.000 persons. The Members of the European Council welcome the Commission’s intention to propose an amendment to the relocation decision of 22 September 2015 to allow for any resettlement commitment undertaken in the framework of this arrangement to be offset from non-allocated places under the decision. Should the number of returns exceed the numbers provided for by these arrangements, this mechanism will be subject to review.
3. Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for illegal migration opening from Turkey to the EU, and will cooperate with neighbouring states as well as the EU to this effect.
4. Once the number of irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU have come to an end or at least have been very substantially reduced, the Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated. EU Member States will contribute on a voluntary basis to this scheme.
5. The implementation of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated with all Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016. To this end Turkey will take the necessary steps to fulfil the remaining requirements to allow the Commission to make, following the required assessment of compliance with the benchmarks, an appropriate proposal by the end of April on the basis of which the European Parliament and the Council can make a final decision.
6. The EU, in close cooperation with Turkey, will further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated 3 billion euros under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and ensure funding of further projects for persons under temporary protection identified with swift input from Turkey before the end of March. Once these resources are about to be used to the full, and provided the above commitments achieve their desired results, the EU stands ready to decide on additional funding for the Facility up to a ceiling of an additional 3 billion euros up to the end of 2018.
7. The EU, together with Turkey, will prepare for the decision on the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations as soon as possible, building on the October 2015 European Council conclusions.
8. The EU and its Member States will work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria which would allow for the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe.
All these elements will be taken forward in parallel and monitored jointly on a monthly basis.
The EU and Turkey decided to meet again as necessary in accordance with the joint statement of 29 November 2015.”
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alastair Macdonald