BRUSSELS: European leaders launch a charm offensive to win backing for a migrant deal with Turkey on Wednesday, seeking to heal rifts between member states on the eve of a key summit with Ankara.
EU president Donald Tusk warned Tuesday that hard work lay ahead to finalize the deal, after Cyprus threatened to derail it over long-standing disagreements with Turkey.
Tusk held talks in Nicosia in an attempt to win Cyprus’ backing for the proposal, which has been hailed as a “game-changer” for European countries buckling under the wave of new arrivals.
EU and Turkish leaders last week agreed a tentative plan that would see new migrants landing in Greece sent back to Turkey. For each Syrian refugee returned, the EU would resettle one from a Turkish camp.
But there has been a growing pushback against the deal, with both France and the Czech Republic warning against attempts by Turkey to “blackmail” Europe.
Cyprus has expressed reservations, not least because longtime adversary Turkey expects the accord to further its EU membership bid and ease visa requirements in the passport-free Schengen area.
Top United Nations officials on refugees and human rights have also questioned whether the plan would be legal.
Tusk conceded this was an issue and it was “not an easy task” to make the proposal legally sound and acceptable to all 28 EU members.
“It is clear that there is still hard work to be done,” Tusk said after flying to Ankara, adding there was “a catalogue of issues” to address before the talks on Thursday and Friday.