AMSTERDAM – The European Union on Thursday complained that Turkey wasn't doing enough to significantly decrease the number of people making the dangerous crossing into Greece and beyond to the continent's heartland where many EU nations are struggling to cope with the influx of migrants and refugees.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said the EU is "a long way from being satisfied" with the effort from Ankara so far, especially after offering 3 billion euros ($3.26 billion) in aid and political concessions — like an easing of visa restrictions and the fast-tracking of its EU membership process — only two months ago.
Germany alone has said that about 3,200 people are arriving each day, many through Turkey, and that numbers haven't declined despite commitments to do something about it. In all, nearly 1.1 million people were registered as asylum-seekers in Germany last year, more than 400,000 of them from Syria.
"There is still a lot of work to do there," said Timmermans, who plans to have talks in Ankara on Monday to discuss progress and see how the EU aid can be used there to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis. Turkey is supposed to tighten border security and take back some migrants who don't qualify for asylum in Europe.
"We will continue in our efforts to make sure that we deliver the results that we agreed with Turkey," Timmermans said.
Beyond seeking to contain the refugee crisis by helping Turkey to better keep people from crossing into the EU, the continent is also desperately trying to bolster its porous external borders, especially in the Mediterranean to try to decrease the number of tragedies in 2016 compared to last year.
The EU's reaction has been anything but united, with several nations imposing internal border checks again and few member states coming forward to help ease the burden of countries like Germany and Sweden, which have been among the primary destinations for refugees and asylum-seekers.
"There is no solution in going national like this," Timmermans told a small group of journalists. "Nobody should have the illusion that this is a long-term solution."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, was calling on her European allies to better share responsibility to deal with the migrant crisis.
Merkel said after meeting her Romanian counterpart Thursday: "I don't want to make any concrete threats here ... but I would like to say that a Schengen (border-free travel) system can only work if joint responsibility is taken for refugees and joint responsibility is taken for protecting external borders."
But finding that common resolve will be a key challenge in 2016, with many central and eastern European nations refusing to enter such sharing deals by taking more people in for shelter.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico's government has already filed a legal challenge last month to a mandatory EU plan to distribute migrants among members of the bloc.
On Thursday, Fico said his government sees what he calls a "clear link" between the waves of refugees and the Paris attacks, and the sexual assaults and robberies during the New Year's Eve festivities in Germany.
"We don't want what happened in Germany to happen here," adding that "the idea of multicultural Europe has failed" and that "the migrants can't be integrated. It's simply impossible."