On 7 March 2016, EU heads of state or government held a meeting with Turkey to strengthen their cooperation on the migration and refugee crisis. European Council President Donald Tusk chaired the meeting, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu represented Turkey.
The meeting was followed by an informal meeting of the members of the European Council.
EU leaders discussed the implementation of the EU-Turkey joint action plan. Even if there is good progress to report on a number of actions, the number of illegal entries from Turkey to Greece remains far too high. EU leaders agreed with Prime Minister Davutoglu to strengthen their cooperation to achieve concrete results on the ground.
"All the above mentioned decisions send a very clear message that the days of illegal migration to Europe are over."Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
They welcomed Turkey's commitment to accept the rapid return of all migrants coming from Turkey to Greece that are not in need of international protection. They also look forward for the establishment of the NATO activity in the Aegean Sea with a view to stemming migrant crossings.
Some broader proposals to address the migration crisis were also discussed during the meeting. President Tusk was tasked to work out their details before the next European Council.
Theses proposals include:
- the return of all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands
- the acceleration of the implementation of the visa liberalization roadmap
- the decision to speed up the disbursement of the 3 billion and decide on additional funding for the refugee facility for Syrians
- the preparation for the decision on the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations
- the possibility to work together on the improvement of humanitarian conditions in Syria to allow the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe
- the resettlement, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, of another Syrian from Turkey to the EU
"The return mechanism mentioned above (...) should eventually break the business model of human smugglers," said President Tusk.
EU leaders also discussed with PM Davutoğlu the situation of the media in Turkey and the importance of freedom of speech and expression.
Informal meeting of the European Council
After their lunch with Prime Minister Davutoğlu, EU leaders resumed their meeting at 28 and agreed to:
- go back to the full application of the Schengen Borders Code in order to bring the irregular flow of migrants along the Western Balkan route to an end
- reinforce the humanitarian assistance to refugees in Greece
- support Greece in the management of its external borders
The meeting was a follow-up to the summit with Turkey of November 2015, when:
- a joint statement to reinvigorate the EU-Turkey relationship was adopted
- an ambitious Joint Action Plan to tackle the migration crisis was launched
Despite progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Action Plan, the number of illegal entries from Turkey remained too high and needed to be brought down significantly. At the European Council of 18-19 February 2016, leaders agreed to organise a special meeting with Turkey to reinforce their cooperation on the migration crisis.
In preparation for the meeting, President Tusk travelled to the main countries of the Western Balkan route between 1-4 March and discussed on the phone with Jens Stoltenberg about the progress on NATO-Frontex cooperation in the Aegean sea. He also met with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey.
Migration crisis - timeline
The timeline outlines the main measures taken by the EU, together with the member states, over the last few months, to address the challenges created by migration.
See also the relevant policy page on our website: