• Clash looms over sending patrol in against a country's will
  • Turkey set for EU financing to house Syrians fleeing civil war

European Union leaders set a mid-2016 deadline to agree on a future EU border patrol, part of the 28-nation bloc’s response to the unprecedented inflow of refugees.

The most sensitive part of the proposal is to empower a European Border and Coast Guard to deploy over a country’s objections. Several countries including Greece, which has been accused of neglecting its Aegean Sea defenses, raised that point at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, two officials told reporters.

“We are all jealous of our sovereignty and of our borders,” Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta, which was beset with migrants in the early stages of the refugee crisis, said in an interview at the summit.

Countries such as Hungary, which have pressed for intervention on Greece’s border, have welcomed the proposal in principle, while objecting that the EU-flagged force will be set up too slowly to deal with the current influx.

The border guard would have a full-time staff of 1,000, twice as many as an existing EU agency, and would draw on 1,500 officers put on permanent standby by the bloc’s governments. Its setup requires approval by the member states and European Parliament.

The biggest fight is shaping up over a provision that would allow the EU to send in the border patrol over a country’s objections as a “last resort.” It would draw on a “vulnerability assessment” and recommendations from national representatives, according to the European Commission’s proposal.

Leaders also agreed to quickly find a promised 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid for Turkey, a non-EU member that has taken in more than 2 million refugees from Syria and Iraq. The financing could be arranged by EU ambassadors at a separate meeting Friday afternoon, officials said.

The money was pledged at an EU-Turkey summit last month to induce Turkey to house refugees on its territory instead of letting them hazard the journey across the Aegean Sea to Greece and on to western Europe.

However, a pre-summit meeting of 11 EU leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu ended without an accord on resettling refugees directly from Turkey. Davutoglu said Turkey will slap visa requirements on incoming Syrians to better contain the numbers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported.

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