Ankara downplays EU budget cut for Turkey

Ankara downplays EU budget cut for Turkey

ANKARA/BRUSSELS
Ankara downplays EU budget cut for Turkey

The government has sought to downplay European Union funding cuts for Turkey over doubts about Ankara’s commitment to democracy and human rights.

On Nov. 17, MEPs and member states agreed to reduce “pre-ascension funds” by 105 million euros ($124 million), while freezing an additional 70 million euros of previously announced spending.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek said the 105 million-euro cut is “nothing” economically for Turkey, which uses 178 billion euros in external financing on an annual basis.

“What would any EU country do differently if it faced such a big terror threat and vicious coup attempt from Turkey?” Şimşek tweeted on Nov. 18 following the EU announcement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had led calls for a cut to the funds, which are linked to Turkey’s stalled bid to join the bloc, following wide-scale arrests in the country since the failed July 2016 coup.

In a statement, EU lawmakers said “they consider the deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights worrying.”

“We have sent a clear message that the money that the EU provides cannot come without strings attached,” said Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan, the lead rapporteur for the budget, as quoted by AFP.

Brussels had pledged 4.45 billion euros in pre-accession spending for Turkey from 2014 to 2020, but only 360 million euros has been allocated so far.

Turkey, European Union, budget cut