Remarks by President Donald Tusk after the meeting of the EU heads of state or government with Turkey

European Council
  • 18/03/2016
  • 18:45
  • Statements and remarks
  • 151/16
  • Home Affairs
  • Foreign affairs & international relations
Press contacts

Preben Aamann
European Council President Spokesperson
+32 22815150
+32 476850543

Today, we have finally reached an agreement between the EU and Turkey. An agreement aimed at stopping the flow of irregular migration via Turkey to Europe.

Let me mention key elements that allowed us to reach this agreement in the last days and hours: 

First, we needed to ensure that each and every migrant arriving in Europe will be treated individually. In other words that our agreement complies with all EU and international laws. This includes the respect for the principle of non-refoulement and it excludes any kind of collective expulsions. The EU agencies and the UNHCR will be invited to participate in this process. As for the legality of this agreement I want to express my thanks to Jean-Claude and the Commission for their work and contribution. 

Second, I made it clear that this deal needs to be acceptable for all EU member states, regardless of their size. Today we have a balanced proposal that takes on board Cypriot concerns. When it comes to accession talks with Turkey, we agreed to open Chapter 33 during the Dutch presidency based on the Commission's proposal to be presented in April.

Finally, on timing. We agreed that all irregular migrants coming from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March, this Sunday, will be returned to Turkey. The implementation will be phased-in gradually and based on the so-called one-for-one principle.

On a more general note, some may think this agreement is a silver bullet. But reality is more complex. It is just one pillar of the European Union's comprehensive strategy and can work only if the other pillars are also implemented. This includes: strengthening the EU's external borders, keeping the Western Balkans' route closed and getting back to Schengen, amongst other elements.

Leaders called for strengthening of our cooperation with the Western Balkan countries in tackling the migration crisis. Yesterday I spoke with President Ivanov about it and reassured him of our support. 

Last night, we also discussed the economic situation in the presence of the ECB President Mario Draghi and endorsed recommendations on re-launching investment, implementing reforms and ensuring sound public finances. 

On climate, we tasked legislators to put in place everything necessary to enable the ratification of the Paris Agreement as soon as possible. Leaders also decided that our plans to achieve energy security should be stepped up, in line with the Energy Union strategy. 

Last but not least, let me finish by saying that yesterday I discussed with President Petro Poroshenko, among others,  the case of Nadiya Savchenko, who is illegally detained in Russia. We also discussed this issue among leaders and I was asked to express the EU position that calls for the immediate release of Nadiya Savchenko along with Oleh Sentsov and all other Ukrainian citizens held in illegal detention. Thank you.