EU and Turkey to hold meeting on migration in early March

European Council President Donald Tusk (left) and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker (centre) speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the European Union leaders summit.
European Council President Donald Tusk (left) and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker (centre) speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the European Union leaders summit. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union and Turkey will hold a "special meeting" in early March to push forward an aid-for-cooperation deal to curb migrant flows to Europe, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday (Feb 19).

"We agreed that our joint action plan with Turkey remains a priority and we must do all we can to succeed. This is why we have the intention to organise a special meeting with Turkey in the beginning of March," Mr Tusk told a press conference after the first day of an EU summit.

The meeting of the leaders of 11 EU countries with Turkey had been planned before the full summit on Thursday but was cancelled after Turkey’s premier Ahmet Davutoglu pulled out following a bomb attack in Ankara.

Pressure to enforce the action plan adopted in November is growing as EU officials say thousands of migrants are still crossing the Aegean daily from Turkey after more than one million made the perilous journey last year in the greatest such movement since World War II.

Speaking at the same press conference, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said: “This morning we confirmed there was no alternative to smart, intelligent cooperation with Turkey.”

Central EU countries said on Wednesday that they would push for further border restrictions in Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone unless they see results from Turkey.

A central European diplomat told journalists the number of asylum seekers arriving from Turkey needs to drop from as many as 2,000 a day to hundreds of people per day.

Mr Juncker also said EU leaders unanimously opposed “unilateral actions” to resolve the migrant crisis after Austria’s Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said Wednesday the country would cap the daily number of asylum claims at 80.

European migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned in a letter to Mikl-Leitner that such plans would “be plainly incompatible” with EU law and Austria should reconsider them.