The European Union and Turkey are considering a new agreement on stemming migration flows, after a previous deal failed to discourage migrants and asylum seekers from undertaking perilous journeys over the Aegean Sea.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu unexpectedly presented EU leaders with several proposals during an extraordinary summit in Brussels on Thursday.
After 12 hours of talks, the leaders agreed to work on six basic principles, which EU President Donald Tusk has been asked to flesh out together with Ankara ahead of a summit on March 17-18.
- to return all new illegal migrants reaching the Greek islands back to Turkey, with the costs covered by the EU;
- to resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey, another Syrian from Turkey to an EU member state;
- to speed up the disbursement of 3 billion euros (3.3 billion dollars) in refugee aid that the EU has already promised to Turkey and to decide on additional assistance. According to European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Ankara is seeking another 3 billion euros by 2018;
- to work with Turkey on creating "safe" areas in Syria where locals and refugees could live;
- to set the goal of lifting EU visa requirements for Turkish citizens by the end of June;
- to open new negotiating chapters in Turkey's bid for EU membership as soon as possible.
EU leaders agreed in a joint statement that "bold moves were needed to close down people smuggling routes, to break the business model of the smugglers, to protect our external borders and to end the migration crisis in Europe."
"We need to break the link between getting in a boat and getting settlement in Europe," they added.