Speaking on the eve of a crucial Brussels summit, Merkel made clear the EU would stand firm on civil rights in Turkey and that Ankara's bid to eventually join the 28-nation club is 'not on the agenda now'.
    
Europe, divided and desperate to end its biggest refugee influx since World War II, is pinning its hopes on a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Under the plan hailed as a 'game-changer', Turkey would seek to stop refugees' dangerous sea journeys and take back illegal migrants from Greece. For each Syrian it accepts, it would send one to the EU in a more orderly redistribution programme.

But the proposed deal, which would offer Turkey the carrot of eased access to the visa-free Schengen zone and an acceleration of EU accession talks, has drawn heavy fire on several fronts.

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