New BBC documentary reveals European Council president’s anger when German chancellor had private talks with Turkey
Vanessa Thorpe – The Guardian
Donald Tusk was enraged when Angela Merkel held private talks with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees and migrants into the European Union, warning the plan would be “a catastrophe”, a new documentary reveals.
“I couldn’t believe it was true. These were my closest partners,” Tusk tells a BBC2 documentary, Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil, about the migration crisis to be aired on Monday.
The controversial deal was stitched together at an unofficial Sunday night meeting in 2016 held between Merkel, the German chancellor, Holland’s prime minister Mark Rutte and the Turkish premier, Ahmet Davutoğlu, ahead of an EU summit in Brussels.
It saw Turkey agree to take back Syrian refugees in exchange for the doubling of financial aid and a renewed chance to be considered for membership of the EU.
Rutte explains his decision to go to the source of the people-smuggling problem when negotiations about EU migration quotas stalled. “I had a feeling this would stem the tide of refugees,” he tells the documentary makers.
Merkel and Rutte agreed nearly all the items of Davutoğlu’s wishlist, the programme reveals. “I regarded it as a win-win deal,” the former Turkish premier explains.
“My reaction was: are you kidding? It would be a catastrophe,” Tusk remembers, while former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi says he still feels that staging the meeting “with Mark and Angela without Donald was a mistake”.
An official deal with Turkey was signed two weeks later.