EU 'long way from satisfied' with Turkish migrant cooperation

AFP , Thursday 7 Jan 2016

Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission and members of the European Commission arrives at the National Maritime Museum, during a visit to mark the start of the Dutch Presidency of the EU Council, in Amsterdam January 7, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)

The EU is far from satisfied with Turkey's cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe after a deal clinched late last year, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Thursday.

"We have seen the first results which are encouraging, but we are a long way from being satisfied," Timmermans told a press conference in Amsterdam at the launch of the Netherlands' six-month EU presidency.

"We will continue discussing ways of improving the effectiveness of their cooperation."

Timmermans acknowledged that the number of migrants travelling in the last couple of weeks via Turkey -- the main launching point for mainly Syrian refugees and migrants travelling to Europe -- remains "relatively high."

Timmermans, a former Dutch foreign minister who has led the EU talks with Ankara, said he will travel to Turkey next Sunday to discuss the implementation of a joint action plan agreed last November.

Under the plan, EU leaders pledged three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid for the more than two million refugees currently sheltering on Turkish soil from the Syrian civil war.

The EU also agreed to kickstart stalled talks on Turkey's push for EU membership and end the visa requirement for Turkish visitors to the EU's passport-free Schengen zone.

In return, Turkey vowed to take steps to halt the migrant outflow, including cracking down on people smugglers and cooperating with the EU on taking back economic migrants who do not qualify as refugees.

More than one million refugees and migrants have flooded Europe's shores this year, most of them crossing from Turkey to Greece, in the biggest crisis of its kind the continent has faced since World War II.

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, said his priorities for his country's EU presidency were to lower the numbers of migrants entering Europe and ensure EU member states share the burden fairly.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was confident that the Dutch presidency would fulfil an EU plan to set up a pan-European border and coast guard force to protect the bloc's external border by the time its mandate ends on June 30.

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