26th Feb 2021


Turkey summit and ECB stimulus on EU agenda This Week

  • Draghi dropped hints on the stimulus measures last month (Photo: ECB)

Monday’s (7 March) two-step summit in Brussels will first see leaders have lunch with Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu before holding a normal, EU-only meeting.

The talks come amid an ever-intensifying sense of crisis: Turkey is stopping some migrants from going to Greece, but not enough to meet EU demands of “almost zero.” Meanwhile, people are becoming stuck in Greece after Austria, two weeks ago, prompted a cascade of border clampdowns on the Balkans migratory route.

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  • Davutoglu (l) seeks EU volunteers to resettle Syrian refugees (Photo: European council)

EU leaders are to ask the Turkish PM to take back all non-Syrian migrants in future. Turkey is angling for some EU states to volunteer to resettle Syrians from Turkey in return.

Turkey is also keen for Europe to respect previous commitments, including on visa-free travel for Turkish nationals to the EU. But its latest crackdown on independent media, on the eve of the EU meeting, has raised heckles from human rights groups on the need to defend EU values.

The EU-level meeting will focus on Greece and on implementation of previous EU accords on migrant relocations.

The draft summit statement, seen by EUobserver, says EU states will help Greece on humanitarian aid and border control. But Greece has said it refuses to become an EU migrant “warehouse.”

The EU-level talks are also likely to consider broader proposals for the reform of the EU asylum system.

The European Commission has proposed to centralise asylum applications, replacing the current system in which the country where migrants first enter the bloc has to process people’s claims. But no decison is likely on the radical plan until later this month.

Greek bailout

Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels also on Monday will discuss the state of play on the Greek bailout.

The German socialist leader of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has said the EU should soften previous budget deficit demands due to the migrant situation in Greece. But German centre-right finance minister Wolfgang Schaueble ruled out linking the bailout and migration dossiers.

All 28 finance ministers will on Tuesday debate proposals on mandatory exchange of tax information on multinational firms, such as Starbucks and Apple, which pay next to nothing due to sweetheart deals.

They will also call for the commission to tax e-cigarettes more heavily in a move set to prompt a fresh tobacco lobby war.

Justice and interior ministers, meeting on Thursday and Friday, will discuss how to beef up Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, and the creation of a “European public prosecutor's office” to combat crimes “against the EU's financial interests.”

One Frontex proposal is to create an EU border guard force which can be deployed to external boundaries even if the host state doesn’t want it.

ECB stimulus

In Frankfurt, the European Central Bank, at its monthly meeting on Thursday is expected to announce fresh stimulus measures in order to bring low inflation levels back up to its 2 percent target.

The measures could include lower interest rates and an expansion of the ECB’s bond-buying programme, based on ECB chief Mario Draghi’s comments last moth.

In Strasbourg, MEPs will on Tuesday and Wednesday debate the outcome of the migration talks. They will hear from Swedish PM Stefan Loefven, whose country takes in more refugees per capita than any other EU state, on Wednesday on “the current situation in the EU.”

The euro-deputies will on Wednesday also vote on whether the commission should renew its deal with tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) when it expires in July.

PMI has been paying the commission to combat cigarette smuggling. But MEPs are preparing to say the arrangements need “better scrutiny.”

Press crackdown could sour EU-Turkey summit

An Istanbul court ordered the takeover of the management of opposition daily Zaman. The EU is urged to react, three days ahead of Monday's migration talks.

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