LONDON - European Union leaders, at a meeting in Brussels, have agreed on a plan to offer Turkey $3.5 billion, together with visa-free travel and renewed accession talks, in return for stopping the flow of refugees and migrants into the EU. But the offer is getting a lukewarm reception in Ankara.
The European money is aimed at helping Turkey to improve conditions for the two million refugees it is hosting on its soil – and keeping them in Turkey.
To sweeten the deal, visa-free travel to the EU for Turkish citizens will be fast-tracked and talks on Turkey joining the EU will be ‘re-energized’. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the meeting as ‘very productive’.
"The question of money played a role, as well as the start of a new chapter, by which I mean we will revitalize the perspective for accession for Turkey," Merkel said.
But Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Friday Europe’s offer of talks on EU membership was insincere. He said many of the European Union member countries fall behind Turkey in adopting EU rules and regulations. Turkey is ahead of many of these countries in terms of economic progress, but - he added - unfortunately, they are not sincere.
There are other hurdles ahead – not least of which is the question of Turkey’s ability to police its own border. Aid groups say 5,000 migrants are arriving in Europe every day.
Hungary said Friday it would not close its border with Croatia - despite building a fence along the Serbian frontier. Hungary’s ambassador to the United States Reka Szemerkenyi called on Europe to secure its external borders.
“There is an immediate pressure to make sure that the entrance into the European Union Schengen [passport-free travel] zone is orderly and it goes according to the law,” Szemerkenyi said.
Meanwhile Bulgaria is investigating the death of an Afghan migrant on its border with Turkey Thursday. Authorities say he was accidentally killed when police fired warning shots.