martin schulz.jpg
Photograph: europarl.europa.eu

Turkey has demanded an additional 3 billion euros (3.3 billion dollars) from the European Union by 2018, in return for help in tackling migration flows, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said at an EU-Turkey summit Monday.

In October, the bloc already offered 3 billion euros to help improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees living in Turkey this year and next, in return for measures aimed at preventing them from continuing their journey towards Europe.

The continent has struggled with an influx of migrants and asylum seekers that brought more than 1 million people to its shores last year, with some 135,000 more following since the start of 2016.

Most travelled via Turkey to Greece in the hope of ultimately reaching wealthy northern European countries such as Germany.

Earlier Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for "solidarity," noting that Turkey and the EU needed one another. The country says it has taken in 2.7 million Syrian refugees, at a cost of more than 10 billion dollars.

"We have to see the whole picture – not just irregular migration, but [that] the whole future of our continent is on the table," Davutoglu said.

But Austrian Finance Minister Hans-Joerg Schelling said he was "not prepared" to make further funds available until countries including his received more help in shouldering the burdens of the refugee crisis.

The Turkish aid request is part of several demands, including progress in Ankara's EU accession talks, Schulz said. The country also wants visa-free access for its citizens to the bloc from June, Andalou news agency reported, quoting unnamed sources close to Davutoglu.

Monday's talks were extended into the evening to discuss Davutoglu's new proposals.

The EU wants Turkey to hold back asylum seekers and is now pushing Ankara to take back economic migrants who have arrived in Greece, but do not qualify for asylum.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "sustainable solution" to the crisis together with Turkey, following several hours of talks with Davutolgu late Sunday.

Turkey and the EU are also discussing whether Ankara could take back Syrians from Greece, in return for which the bloc would do more to resettle asylum seekers directly from Turkey, sources in Brussels said.

Schulz defended the idea of returning people to Turkey, arguing that it would deal a "blow against traffickers," by convincing people to file for asylum before leaving the country, in the hope of being resettled in the EU.

But French President Francois Hollande spoke out against such a move, arguing that it would make more sense to relocate Syrians directly out of Greece. About half of the people reaching the EU are Syrians fleeing war.

The talks with Davutoglu also touched on other issues, notably the Turkish government's recent takeover of the Zaman opposition newspaper.

Leaders including British Prime Minister David Cameron voiced their concerns at the move during the summit, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Earlier, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel had called for an "honest" exchange with Davutoglu, saying "it cannot be that because of the refugee issue other values that are important for Europe, such as freedom of the media, just get thrown overboard."

EU leaders were also expected to discuss border restrictions introduced along the Western Balkan migration route from Greece to northern Europe, in an effort to stem the flow. The move has sparked a humanitarian crisis in Greece, which was already overwhelmed with thousands of stranded migrants.

EU leaders were to consider declaring the Western Balkans route "closed," but diplomats said Merkel was among those opposing the move. Germany has been a top destination for migrants.

"When it comes to the question of how we get the number of refugees to decrease not just for some, few countries, but for all countries - including Greece - it cannot be about closing something or other," Merkel told journalists in Brussels.

"This is a European problem. So [we] have to find collective solutions," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras added.

But leaders from the countries along the Balkan route are insisting on its closure.

"We will close all routes, the Balkan route too," Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said. "It has been for many too easy to simply wave through people."

Hollande noted that the route is for all intents and purposes already shut down. Croatian and Slovenian police reported no migrant arrivals on Sunday.

More than 13,000 people are waiting to cross from Greece into Macedonia, aid agencies estimated Monday. Local media reported that the border between the two countries was closed, including for freight trains.

Latest news

Car bombing injures five soldiers in Somali capital

Five Somali soldiers were injured Monday when a car they were chasing blew up in the capital Mogadishu, security officials and witnesses said.

Israeli military confirms strikes on several Hamas outposts in Gaza

The Israeli military confirmed on Monday that it had sent fighter jets to strike several posts belonging to the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip in response to an earlier rocket attack.

Croatian FM rejects claims gov't will change abortion law, advocates dignity of LGBT persons

Croatian Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier said on Monday he absolutely rejected allegations that the government would change the abortion law, and added that he advocated the dignity of LGBT persons.

Croats say Bosnia's public broadcaster should be overhauled based on Swiss or Belgian model

Major Croat political parties that make up the Croat National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HNS BiH) will insist on the reorganisation of the existing state public broadcaster as they believe that the current system of public broadcasting is contrary to the Constitution and discriminatory against the Croats.

Austria and Germany seek tighter EU to face US, Russia

EU countries must close ranks in the face of pressures from the new US administration and from Russia, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Monday in Vienna.

Danish premier and opposition leader reject EU referendum

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and the leader of the main opposition Social Democrats both reject staging a referendum on the country's membership of the European Union as suggested by eurosceptics.

French PM slams "irresponsible" Fillon over "near-civil war" comment

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve hit back Monday at conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon, accusing him of being "irresponsible" for saying the race was taking place in a climate of "near-civil war."

Serbia opens two more policy areas in its EU accession talks

Serbia on Monday opened two new policy areas in its EU entry talks, thus bringing the number of opened policy areas to eight.

EC: Economic sentiment for Croatia deteriorates in February

The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI), a composite indicator made up of five sectoral confidence indicators, deteriorated for Croatia in February with the subdued confidence of companies from the services and retail sectors having a higher weight than improving consumers' confidence, according to a report released by the European Commission on Monday.

Frankfurt, London exchange operators' stock fall on merger doubts

Shares in the operators of the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the Deutsche Boerse fell sharply on Monday after the LSE threw fresh doubts on their planned 29-billion-euro (30.1-billion-dollar) merger to forge Europe's biggest exchange.

ICJ asks Bosnia's leadership to state its position on review request

The State Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina will have to make a clear statement as to whether it supports the request for a review of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) genocide ruling against Serbia, the Croat member of the country's three-member presidency, Dragan Covic, said on Monday.

White Helmets, grateful for Oscar nod, hope for peace in Syria

Members of the Syria Civil Defence group, a neutral team of some 3,000 volunteers providing aid to Syria's rebel-held areas, expressed joy on Monday that a film documenting their work won an Oscar for best short documentary.