The government of Turkey has accepted a deal from the European Union to help stop the flow of refugees to Europe, but only after months of negotiations and deals, which include $3.2 billion in cash and, amongst other benefits, a promise from the European side to reinvigorate EU membership talks with Turkey.
Heads of the European Union nations met Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels on Sunday to announce the deal, which also includes the possibility of visa-free travel for Turkish passport holders to countries in Europe’s Schengen zone.
This condition, according to the deal, will only come if Turkey meets conditions on tightening its eastern borders and achieves other benchmarks.
Calling the move a “new beginning” in Turkey’s move to join Europe, Davutoglu told reporters “”Today is a historic day in our accession process to the EU. I am grateful to all European leaders for this new beginning.”
But summit chairman Donald Tusk downplayed the accession talks and stressed that the meeting was primarily about migration and stemming the flow of refugees, rather than improving Turkish ties, which have been strained in recent years.
“Our main goal is to stem the flow of migrants,” Tusk said, while insisting “this is not a simple, trivial trade-off”.
The key element of the agreement is $3.2 billion in cash over two years (which Turkey wanted every year). The money is intended to raise the living standards of the existing refugees and try and convince them to stay in Turkey rather than make the trek across the Aegean Sea to Greek Islands, as almost a million have done so this year.