Turkey urges EU to fulfil pledges to tackle migrants

Refugees and migrants disembark the ferry 'Eletherios Venizelos at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, on Oct 21, 2015. The ship 'Eleftherios Venizelos' arrived in the port of Piraeus carrying about 2,500 refugees and migrants that had landed o
Refugees and migrants disembark the ferry 'Eletherios Venizelos at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, on Oct 21, 2015. The ship 'Eleftherios Venizelos' arrived in the port of Piraeus carrying about 2,500 refugees and migrants that had landed on the Greek island of Chios, coming from Turkey. PHOTO: EPA

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The EU must fulfil pledges to offer Turkey three billion euros (S$4.6 billion) a year and visa-free travel for Turks in return for cooperation to stem the flow of migrants, Ankara's ambassador in Brussels said on Friday (Oct 23).

The European Union must also break the stalemate in negotiations for Turkey to join the 28-nation bloc and resume inviting Turkish leaders to EU summits in order to seal a cooperation deal, Ambassador Selim Yenel told AFP.

"It is only operational if the EU delivers on its pledges, the four pledges that they gave," Yenel said in an interview in his Brussels office.

He appeared to suggest it could take months before this would happen.

Just hours after the EU announced with great fanfare last week it had reached a refugee cooperation deal with Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials swiftly dampened expectations.

Erdogan urged Brussels to take Ankara's 10-year bid for EU membership more seriously while his foreign minister Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu heaped scorn on the EU's proposals of financial help.

Yenel said the Greek Cypriots, who are engaged in longstanding peace talks with ethnic Turks on the divided east Mediterranean island, have "blocked" efforts to open the accession talks on various policy areas - including on the judiciary and fundamental rights.

While EU leaders did not specify how much they would give Ankara, they did say the three billion euros demanded by Turkey would be a problem.

But the EU has expressed growing concern about the flow of migrants through Turkey, now the main gateway for Syrians and others fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and central Asia.

They make the dangerous sea crossing to Greece, then travel up through the Balkans to Austria and Germany.

"The EU finally remembered us, recognised us for what we are," Yenel said.

"It's a pity that we had to come together because of a crisis, but we know how the EU works, that it functions and evolves through crises and maybe we needed a crisis to come together," the ambassador said.