Czech PM welcomes EU deal with Turkey

Photo: ČTK

After late-night negotiations in Brussels the EU on Tuesday announced it had reached a deal with Turkey on a bold plan to stem the massive influx of refugees into Europe. The Czech Republic, together with the vast majority of EU member states, welcomed the deal as a potential breakthrough in Europe’s deepening migrant crisis.

Photo: ČTK
Turkey’s unexpected offer to take back all migrants who cross into Europe from its soil in return for more money, faster EU membership talks and quicker visa-free travel for its citizens took the EU by surprise, but under growing pressure to find an effective solution to the deepening migrant crisis member states quickly caught on the to the advantages of the plan clinching a deal in principle that still needs formal approval by the 28-member block. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was quick to voice his country’s support for it.

“We welcome the Turkish proposal because it presents a possible solution. If it works as envisaged it would finally break the people smuggling business that is driving hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants to Europe. It is an interesting proposal that deserves serious consideration.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki
The agreement with Turkey is such that in return for another 3 billion euros and faster progress in EU accession talks the country would take back all migrants who cross over to Greece from where they set out across Europe. In exchange for stopping the influx of illegal migrants, Turkey wants the EU to take in one Syrian refugee directly from Turkey for each migrant returned from Greece. Prime Minister Sobotka said this would not in any way change the Czech Republic’s present commitments to take in a certain number of refugees.

“What it means is that we will not be taking in refugees from Italy and Greece, but will take them from Turkey instead. The numbers are still the same, the agreement has not changed anything in this respect.”

The Czech prime minister also welcomed the fact that, no matter how this deal evolves, the EU recognized the need to close the so-called west Balkan’s route used by hundreds of thousands of migrants as a gateway to western Europe, a plan recently discussed in Prague at a summit of the Visegrad Four (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary).

European Council President Donald Tusk | Photo: European Council
European Council President Donald Tusk, who chaired the summit, said the outcome would show migrants that there was no longer a path into Europe for people seeking a better life.

"Irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route have now come to an end."

Meanwhile, EU leaders likewise pledged massive humanitarian assistance to help Greece cope with a backlog of migrants stranded on its soil. The EU member states are due debate the plan in greater detail at a meeting of the European Council on March 17 – 18.