EU-Turkey migration summit to be held on March 7 in Brussels
BRUSSELS - EU leaders will hold a special summit with Turkey in Brussels on March 7 to push forward a deal aimed at stemming the flow of migrants into Europe, the bloc's President Donald Tusk said Wednesday.
Tusk -- who had announced at an EU summit last week that he was planning a meeting with Turkish officials -- said the so-called joint action plan with Turkey "remains a priority, and we must do our utmost for it to succeed."
"This ultimately means that the high numbers we are still witnessing have to go down, and quickly so. This is also why we decided to organise a special meeting with Turkey on 7 March," he told the European Parliament.
A European source said the meeting "will be in the form of a working lunch", but it is not clear whether it was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who would attend on behalf of Ankara.
Turkey and the EU signed a deal in November under which Ankara agreed to curb the number of refugees crossing to Greece in return for three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid and the speeding up of its EU membership bid.
But pressure to enforce the plan is growing as EU officials say thousands of migrants are still crossing the Aegean daily, after more than one million people made the perilous journey to Europe last year.
Tusk said that the EU's Schengen passport-free area would also be a key subject for discussion, after several countries reimposed border controls to deal with the huge flow of migrants across the continent.
"We need to invest in Schengen, not in its collapse. Its future will be one of the key issues to be discussed by the leaders on 7 March," he said.
"There is no doubt we need to restore Schengen. It will cost money, take time and require a huge political effort. There will be countries that may not be able to cope with this challenge. But Europe will be there to assist them."