Italy not targeting Turkey in blocking aid, says envoy
ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
AA photoItaly has no problem with Turkey, Rome’s ambassador to Ankara said Jan. 19 after the country was accused of blocking EU funds to help refugees in Turkey.
Last month the EU pledged a 3 billion-euro ($3.27 billion) aid package for Turkey to provide for the nearly 2.5 million refugees currently in the country. The finance is to come from both the EU budget and member states.
Italy has said it wants the EU to pay a greater share.
“I would like to highlight that we have do not have any stance against Turkey. Italy is the very country that insists on behalf of Turkey at the EU,” Italian Ambassador Luigi Mattiolo said at an event in Ankara.
“There are just problems stemming from the EU’s internal structure and its member countries. So the debates are on the methods. But there will definitely be a solution. This money will not be blocked,” Mattiolo said.
Two European officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity on Jan. 14 that Rome was blocking the 3 billion-euro deal.
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the “few” EU states opposed to the aid package were criticized heavily for “not fulfilling their commitment.”
“The EU has promised 3 billion euros aid to Turkey for the accommodation of refugees but so far nothing concrete has happened in terms of the finance,” Steinmeier was quoted as saying by Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency at the Foreign Press Association in Germany on Jan. 19.
“There is at least one, maybe a few more countries, which have not yet approved this. Therefore, during the EU foreign ministers’ meeting yesterday [Jan. 18], there was heavy criticism of these countries for denying their approval so far,” Steinmeier said.
“It is clear that we cannot only expect Turkey to fulfill its commitments while the European side is not doing the same.”
Italy was the first nation to commend Turkey’s “unprecedented generosity” in hosting refugees, who mostly come from Syria, Mattiolo said.
The ambassador stressed that Rome does not view Turkey as a buffer zone between Europe and countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Turkey means Europe for me,” he said. “I have no doubt about Turkey’s position.”
Under the deal agreed at an EU summit in December 2015, the EU suggested Turkish nationals would be granted visa-free travel to the Schengen area, and there are signs that Turkey’s EU accession process has been reinvigorated.