#EuropeanCouncil: Closing the Balkan Route – or not?

balkan route

Another European Council meeting (EU summit) has started in Brussels today (7 March), hosting the heads of states or governments of all 28 member states of the European Union. This time, a non-EU-member is in attendance too: Turkey, represented by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The reason for having a ‘guest’ attending this European Council is simple: the EU needs Turkey’s help in finding solutions to the current refugee crisis, writes Judith Mischke.

One of the most debated topics for this summit will be whether or not to close the Balkan Route, through which thousands of refugees can reach Europe. Most parts of it have already been closed, and these closures have lead to huge disagreements in the Union. Turkey’s role is not to be underestimated in this debate, as Turkey is the gateway for many refugees to reach the EU. However, as Turkey is also aiming to join the EU at some point, it has understood its importance in this crisis.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in Brussels: “We will help Turkey, but in exchange we will demand that we can return the people coming from there to the European Union.”

Most representatives arrived in Brussels around noon, including Angela Merkel (Germany), Werner Faymann (Austria), Boyko Borissov (Bulgaria), Dalia Grybauskaitė (Lithuania) and David Cameron (UK).

Angela Merkel strongly emphasized not closing the Balkan Route and received back-up from Commission President Jean Claude Juncker. As most heads of states or governments are currently striving for a closed Balkan route, Merkel is expecting “difficult negotiations here in Brussels”. Opposing closed boarders puts her in a difficult position, as she may be one of the very few who does not sign the draft summit deal.

David Cameron said he and the UK would help the “continent in securing its outside borders” but he also added that Britain would need its own controls, as Britain is not part of the Schengen area.

Belgian’s Prime Minister Charles Michel supported the need for secured Schengen boarders and said: “There is only one possible solution and that is to completely close the Schengen area’s borders to illegal, uncontrolled migration.”

Austrian’s Chancellor Werner Faymann said in Brussels that in his opinion a solution without Turkey would also be possible. A deal on solving the crisis “should also be reached without help from the neighbour”, which is Turkey.

The outcome of this summit’s negotiations is expected for today’s late afternoon or early evening.


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Category: A Frontpage, Accession, Asylum policy, Belgium, Borders, Brussels, Defence, EU, EU borders, European Commission, European Council, External relations, Featured Article, Greece, Immigration, People smuggling, Refugees, Refugees, Safety, Schengen, Schengen area, Syria, Turkey, UK

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