Turkey raises price of refugee deal

Turkey jacked up the price for helping Europe to cope with the flow of refugees on Monday, doubling its demand for financial aid by asking for an extra €3 billion, plus visa waivers for Turks and a kick-start to EU accession talks.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s latest demands, combined with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s last-minute opposition to plans to declare the West Balkan route used by migrants to travel to northern Europe closed, complicated efforts at a Turkey-EU summit in Brussels to reach a desperately needed deal on how to control the flow of refugees.

Other provisions in the proposal met strong resistance from European leaders, including a push to take asylum-seekers from Turkey and resettle them in the EU. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán promised to veto the deal over that measure, according to his spokesman.

“We are not happy with these proposals,” said one East European diplomat, who called the Turkish offer a “wish list” that had “taken many countries by surprise.”

European Parliament President Martin Schulz told reporters Davutoğlu had made “some very interesting proposals,” including new funding on top of the previously agreed €3 billion for Turkey to help with the refugees, of which €1 billion will come from the EU budget and €2 billion from member countries.

Merkel, for her part, said she would oppose any agreement to permanently close borders and took issue with the wording of a draft summit deal that had been put together by diplomats, including her own, over the weekend.

“For all countries, including Greece, closing anything is not an option,” she told reporters at the summit.

But Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said closing borders was an essential part of the deal. “It has been too easy for many to simply wave through the refugees,” he said. “The more clearly we argue against this, the better.”

The developments called into question the ability of EU leaders to show solidarity on the migration issue, something which has proven difficult in the past and which diplomats and officials had expressed confidence would be the new headline coming out of this summit.

Sources told POLITICO that, at a five-hour dinner Sunday night with Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Turkish embassy in Brussels, Davutoğlu laid out four key conditions to securing an agreement. They included the extra money, a full visa liberalization for Turks traveling to Europe, accelerated talks on Turkish membership of the EU, and the resettlement question.

German negotiators warned Turkey that its demands on visa liberalization and EU membership talks would be a stretch — EU leaders are not likely to agree to them, according to the sources.

Bring back the money

EU leaders were said to have reacted negatively to comments early Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who complained in a televised speech that the EU had yet to deliver on its prior commitments — even though Brussels had just sent part of the money from the original €3 billion deal a few days earlier.

“It’s been four months. They are yet to deliver,” Erdoğan said. “The prime minister is currently in Brussels. I hope he will return with the money.”

Some EU leaders, including Britain’s David Cameron and Belgium’s Charles Michel, used the summit to complain to Davutoğlu about the Turkish authorities’ takeover of  a leading opposition newspaper, Zaman, last Friday.

The paper was taken over at the request of a prosecutor investigating one of Erdoğan’s main opponents, highlighting one of the main sticking points to Turkish accession to the EU — namely, the lack of respect for human rights and freedom of speech.

According to a diplomatic source who was in the talks, European Council President Donald Tusk was especially dismayed at the new offer from Turkey, which unraveled a week of diplomacy he’d conducted during a tour of capitals along the Western Balkan route that finished up in Ankara on Friday.

Berlin flagged Turkey’s new demands to other EU countries early on Monday — but had a new wrinkle of its own to add to the pre-summit plot. Merkel took issue with the wording of the draft language of the deal, telling top EU officials she will not agree to a joint statement from leaders saying the Western Balkan migration route is “closed.”

Diplomats had worked on the language over the weekend in the hope of a smooth meeting with Turkey and a show of solidarity among EU leaders on the refugee crisis. However, Merkel made clear in a pre-summit huddle with Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that she would oppose one part of the crucial sentence in the draft summit statement stating that “this route is now closed.”

She argued that the statement is factually wrong, since there are refugees coming to Germany every day, if even only a few hundred.

A diplomatic source said that EU countries along the Balkan route and in Eastern Europe — including Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic, as well as France and the Netherlands — oppose anything short of a proposal that says the Balkan route is “closed.”

The countries were also critical of Merkel, saying she was siding with Turkey and Greece against the rest of the EU.

Jacopo Barigazzi, Maïa de la Baume, Hans von der Burchard and Barbara Surk contributed to this article.