EU, Turkey agree on refugee action plan

The European Union and Turkey agreed on Sunday to speed up the country’s EU accession process if Ankara takes steps to stem the flow of refugees coming into Europe.

Chapter 17 on economy will be opened on Dec. 14 and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens is expected to be implemented in October 2016 if Ankara meets certain criteria specified in an agreed roadmap.

The European Union will also give 3 billion euros ($3.1 billion) in funding to meet the needs of more than 2 million Syrian refugees in the country.

“These 3 billion euros are not given to Turkey. [This amount] is given to Syrian refugees; the main philosophy is burden sharing,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a joint press conference with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker following a summit in Brussels on Sunday.

“I can guarantee that Turkey will be completing and fulfilling all the promises mentioned in the joint action plan,” Davutoglu said.

“Our ultimate target is to prevent human smugglers, prevent all type of criminal activities against refugees and regularize this flow as much as possible,” he added.

 Re-energized accession talks

The Cyprus issue remains a major obstacle to Turkey’s accession plans, as several chapters are blocked by the Greek Cypriot administration.

Out of 35 chapters, which must be completed in order for the country to join the 28-nation bloc, only 13 have been examined.

“The Cyprus settlement is an important step,” Juncker said. “I am quite optimistic after having visited Cyprus; things are moving in the right direction.” 

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus President Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades resumed talks on reunifying the island following Akinci’s election in April.

Negotiations resumed following a two-year hiatus in February 2013 but stalled in October last year after a row over mineral exploration around the island.

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