Brussels, Dec 16 (IANS) The European Union has reaffirmed its commitment to an EU-Turkey deal to stem the influx of illegal migrants to the bloc.
Leaders of the 28-nation bloc gathered here on Thursday for the last summit of this year, which focused on issues such as migration, security, economy and external relations, Xinhua news agency reported.
The European Council issued conclusions on migration, underlining the importance of a “full and non-discriminatory implementation of all aspects” of the deal.
The council also endorsed the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan and the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement elaborated between Greece and the European Commission.
As Greece had already taken the first step towards implementing the plan, the council called upon all EU member states to follow suit.
The EU-Turkey deal to curb the refugee influx into Europe came into force in March.
Under the agreement, Turkey agreed to take back all undocumented migrants who had arrived in Europe in exchange for Europe resettling Syrian refugees in Turkey on a one-for-one basis.
The EU also promised to accelerate EU membership talks with Turkey.
Turkey has moved to significantly reduce the illegal flow of migrants under the deal.
According to the European Commission, the influx of illegal migrants to the EU has dropped to 100 per day on average from 10,000 per day at the height of the migration crisis in October last year.
However, the deal came into question after the European Parliament in view of Turkey’s “disproportionate repressive measures” in response to July’s failed military coup.
In the wake of the vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened he could tear up the migration deal and open the border gates “if the EU goes too far”.
Turkey applied to join the EU in 1987 and started accession talks in 2005, but the talks have faltered in recent years due to disagreements over issues such as refugees, freedom of the press and human rights.