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20th Jul 2019

Austria calls mini-EU summit with Turkish PM

Leaders of nine EU member states and the European Commission president will meet the Turkish PM on Thursday morning (17 December) in Brussels for a mini-summit on migration, ahead of a regular EU summit later the same day.

The meeting was initiated by Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann and will take place at Austria's EU mission.

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Along with commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu, it will include German chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Greece, and Slovenia

The precise aim of the meeting was still unclear on Wednesday afternoon.

"There is no preparatory material, or any kind of agenda," a source from one participating country told EUobserver.

The mini-summit follows a first one in the margins of an EU-Turkey summit on 29 November.

The plenary summit agreed an “action plan” on Turkey slowing the flow of migrants to Europe.

The mini-summit, or, in Merkel’s phrase, the “coalition of the willing,” discussed resettling people directly from refugee camps in Turkey.

The idea is to “replace illegal migration with legal migration," Merkel said at the time.

State of play

Resettlement does not appear to be on the Thursday mini-summit’s agenda, however.

A source from another participating state said the talks will merely take stock of how the situation has evolved in the past two weeks.

"A lot of things have happened since then. We want to hear from Turkey what it has done and what are the next steps, on migration and on the action plan," the source told EUobserver.

The source listed the main developments as: the EU opening an accession chapter with Turkey; holding talks on visa-free travel; agreeing how to finance a €3 billion aid fund.

It is unclear if Faymann will report on the outcome of the mini-summit when he meets the other EU leaders on Thursday.

"It would make sense," the second source said. But he added that no protocol has been agreed.

An EU official noted that if the mini-summit states undertake to resettle refugees from Turkey it would be on a purely bilateral basis, because resettlement isn’t in the EU-Turkey action plan.

He predicted the mini-summit states would "not present numbers" on how many people they’ll take in.

'Friends of resettlement'

Feyman’s initiative is causing confusion in EU circles.

"Let's see what kind of group is formed," the EU official said, adding that there was little coordination with the regular EU summit.

"We don't know whether it is a summit of the friends of resettlement or a follow-up of the Western Balkan summit," a diplomat from a non-participating EU country said, referring to another EU event on migration, a summit, in October, organised by the commission, this time with Western Balkan leaders.

The pro-resettlement EU leaders are not the same ones as the participants in the October meeting.

The EU diplomat said he did not know what would be discussed “at the German representation.” He corrected himself, to say the Austrian mission. But his slip revealed a feeling that Merkel is pulling the strings.

The French president was also invited to Thursday’s mini-meeting. But he isn’t going, just as he didn’t go to the first mini-summit in November.

At the time of the meeting in Brussels, he will be in northern France to inaugurate a monument to fraternal feeling between French, German, and British soldiers in the World War I.

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