European leaders say they have reached the outlines for a possible deal with Ankara to return thousands of refugees to Turkey and are hopeful a full agreement can be reached at a summit next week.
Analysis One in, one out – the EU’s simplistic answer to the refugee crisis
The proposal that Europe will resettle every Syrian that Turkey allows in from Greece is morally and legally complex
Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, outlined proposals early on Tuesday morning to resettle one Syrian refugee in Europe for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands.
After 12 hours of talks in Brussels, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, described the one in, one out proposal as “a breakthrough” that would deter refugees from making the perilous sea crossing to Greece, but said Europe needed more time to agree final details.
EU leaders will aim to seal the deal with Turkey at another summit on 17-18 March.
The Turkish proposals, which had been agreed with Merkel and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, on the eve of the summit, came as a surprise to other EU leaders. One said EU officials were left scrambling to find out if it was “legally and logistically possible”, while another diplomat said it was “naive” to think that such a complex plan could be agreed so quickly.
David Cameron said the proposal to return all refugees who make it across the Aegean Sea to Greece could provide the basis of a settlement that would finally close the refugee trail through the Balkans.