Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled Wednesday that the EU will not do a deal with Ankara at all costs to solve the bloc's refugee crisis, as she urged European leaders to stand firm on their push for civil rights in Turkey.
While acknowledging that this week's talks in Brussels could offer the “first real chance” to resolve the refugee crisis, she cautioned that Turkey needed to fulfil EU conditions in order to secure its key demands.
Turkey has offered to take back all migrants landing in Greece in a bid to reduce their incentive to pay people-smugglers for dangerous crossings to the Greek islands in rickety boats.
In return for every Syrian sent back from Greece, the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey.
In exchange, Turkey is demanding six billion euros ($6.6 billion) in aid, visa-free access for its nationals within Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone and swifter action to process its bid to join the EU.
On the eve of a meeting in Brussels with fellow leaders to examine the fine print of the proposals, Merkel told parliament: “The EU summit tomorrow and Friday is to see whether we can reach an agreement that could give us, for the first time, a real chance at a sustainable and pan-European solution to the refugee crisis.”
At the same time, Merkel stressed that she would not offer carte blanche to Turkey in order to secure the deal.
On Ankara’s demands to speed up its EU membership process, she said: “Negotiations with Turkey on EU membership are open-ended — they are really not on the agenda now.”
Conditions for allowing Ankara into the bloc “remain unchanged and will not be changed,” she said, underlining concerns over civil liberties in Turkey.
“It goes without saying … that we voice our convictions to Turkey regarding, for instance, the protection of press freedom or the treatment of the Kurds,” Merkel said.
Likewise terms for Turkish citizens to acquire eased Schengen visa rules also remained unchanged, the German leader said.
“It is crucial that the conditions for Turkey to obtain visa liberalisation do not change,” she stressed.