President Donald Tusk visits the main countries of the Western Balkans route and Turkey

President Donald Tusk visits the main countries of the Western Balkans route and Turkey

President Tusk will travel to Vienna, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Skopje, Athens, Ankara, Istanbul and Belgrade from the 1st to the 4th of March to continue building a European consensus on how to handle the migration crisis and to prepare for the summit with Turkey on 7 March and the European Council on 17-18 March.

As President Tusk said in the European Parliament on 24 February: "There is no doubt we need to restore Schengen. It will cost money, take time and require a huge political effort. There will be countries that may not be able to cope with this challenge. But Europe will be there to assist them. We need to invest in Schengen, not in its collapse. Its future will be one of the key issues to be discussed by the leaders on 7 March."

"We must avoid having a battle between plans A, B and C. It does not make any sense, as it only creates divisions within Europe without bringing us closer to a solution. Instead we must look for a synthesis of different approaches. There is no good alternative to a comprehensive European plan."

President Tusk's trip will focus on some of the main countries of the Western Balkans route as the February European Council decided to get back to a situation where all Members of the Schengen Area fully apply the Schengen Borders Code and refuse entry at external borders to third-country nationals, who do not satisfy the entry conditions or who have not made an asylum application despite having had the opportunity to do so. The restoration of the full functioning of the Schengen area will take time and must be accompanied by measures to address the humanitarian consequences for Member States affected as well as humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees and countries neighbouring Syria.

In Turkey he will meet both Prime Minister Davutoglu in Ankara, and President Erdogan in Istanbul. The two meetings with the Turkish leaders will be important occasions to prepare for the upcoming summit with all the 28 EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey in Brussels on 7 March. President Tusk will end his trip in Belgrade, Serbia, where he will meet with Prime Minister Vučić.