Euro Investment Bank offers Turkey help for refugees
ISTANBUL - Anadolu Agency
Refugees wait for the German Chancellor during her visit at a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep on April 23, 2016. AFP photoThe European Investment Bank (EIB) is prepared to financially assist Turkey in caring for the 2.7 million Syrian refugees sheltering in the county, EIB Vice President Pim van Ballekom has told Anadolu Agency.
“My message is that we are ready to support you but you have to define the plans. We are prepared to assist,” he said on May 6 in Istanbul.
Van Ballekom said that during his visit to Ankara this week, he had talks with Turkish authorities on the refugee crisis but stressed they had not made up their minds about how to use the money.
“We are waiting for your authorities. We are exploring our investment opportunities in order to help Turkey to face those challenges,” he stated.
His remarks came at a time when the March 20 deal between Ankara and the European Union to stem the exodus to the continent has produced results.
Over the past year, thousands of people have made short but perilous attempts to cross the Aegean in a bid to reach Greece before going on to northern and western Europe.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in the first 100 days of 2016, arrivals in Greece by sea averaged close to 1,500 migrants daily. The IOM reported on April 22 that in the previous two weeks, arrivals had dropped to an average of 100 per day.
The agreement allows for the return of “irregular migrants” to Turkey from Greece in exchange for Syrian refugees to be relocated within the EU.
Van Ballekom said the bank would do more in “educational facilities, social housing and healthcare” to help Turkey face the challenges of hosting so many refugees.
The EIB, the largest foreign financier in the country, has been active in financing projects in Turkey since the 1960s.
Following the start of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations in 2004, the bank stepped up its lending operations to help Turkey’s development and integration with the EU.
2.3-bln-euro in financing in 2015
The bank has provided finance totaling 2.8 billion euros since 2010. In 2015 alone, total EIB financing in Turkey reached 2.3 billion euros. The bank continued its support for small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and infrastructure projects.
Van Ballekom visited Istanbul on May 5-6 to sign an agreement with major Turkish companies and banks for seven new loan agreements totaling over 800 million euros.
The bank said SMEs would attract the largest part of the new funding. Other loans will support healthcare and port infrastructure projects.
Van Ballekom stressed that SMEs were “innovative and important for job creation, which is very much needed especially in a young, dynamic and vibrant country like Turkey.”
Van Ballekom praised the Turkish economy despite problems in areas including shaky relations with Russia and ongoing violence in the southeastern part of the country.
“The economy is doing reasonably well. The Turkish economy is resilient. That’s why we are needed as a bank here. We need a good investment climate, which exists in the country,” he stated.
He added that the bank was open to more projects. He said the bank’s annual budget for Turkey last year was 2.5 billion euros, up from 2.3 billion euros in 2014.
Van Ballekom stressed the bank may lend out more than 2.5 billion euros in 2016. “The more projects you have, the more can be realized,” he added.
He signaled that the bank would do more in agriculture, sustainable energy and infrastructure projects like gas storage.
The EIB plans to invest 1 billion euros in the Trans Anatolian Pipeline natural gas pipeline (TANAP) and gas storage facilities in Turkey’s Marmara region.
Van Ballekom said TANAP was “under appraisal” and he expressed hope the bank would participate in the project.
“That will become clear I think during the coming months. But we are doing our best to make it happen,” he stated.