Istanbul / AFP
A summit next week between Turkey and the European Union billed as crucial for combatting Europe’s migration crisis should not just be about migrants but also discuss Ankara’s relations with the bloc, a Turkish official said on Thursday.
The March 7 meeting in Brussels is seen as a crucial chance for EU and Turkish leaders to take determined and coordinated steps to stop the flow of migrants from Turkey across the Aegean Sea to EU states.
But the summit should also take in other key issues, including the opening of new chapters for Turkey’s longstanding EU membership bid, the senior government official said.
“We do not want the summit to be only about migrants. It should be something different and take in all the aspects of Turkey-EU relations,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
As well as looking at the opening of new chapters, leaders should also discuss visa-free travel to EU states for Turkish citizens, a goal that Ankara hopes to reach by October, the official said.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos last week warned that failure to make “convergence and agreement” with Turkey at the summit on stemming the flow of migrants would spell “disaster” for the bloc.
EU President Donald Tusk is due to meet Turkish leaders this week in Turkey ahead of the summit.
Some EU leaders have on occasion expressed frustration with Turkey’s inability to stop thousands of migrants—from Syria and other troubled states—leaving its shores daily in crammed and unsafe boats in a bid to reach EU member Greece.
But the official said Ankara was doing all it can and it was “impossible to stop everyone in a day”.
“We have a determination to stop this illegal migration,” added the
Brussels and Ankara agreed a deal in late November to stop the flow under which Turkey was to receive thre billion euros ($3.3 billion) in financial aid to help mainly Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The funds have yet to be transferred but the official played down reports that they had been held up, saying the allocation was undergoing a “needs assessment”.
“We want to have a say on where this money is going to be spent,” said the official