EU renews refugee support to Turkey

EU renews refugee support to Turkey

Serkan Demirtaş - BURSA
EU renews refugee support to Turkey

The European Union’s move to extend its support to the Syrian refugees in Turkey is a blatant message that the bloc will continue to back the efforts of the Turkish people in dealing with around four millions refugees on their land, the European envoy to Turkey has said, reiterating that the new financial package will be implemented in coordination with the Turkish government.

“The European assistance needs to support efforts made by the Turkish authorities, by the Turkish municipalities and by the Turkish people. So, in this sense, I think that the Turkish authorities see the same developments, and we need to live up to them. So, we want to support them in their effort,” EU Ambassador to Turkey Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on June 23 while paying a visit to Bursa in northwestern Anatolia.

The ambassador’s remarks came as the EU Council was scheduled to discuss a proposal tabled by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for a new financial package to the countries hosting Syrian refugees, namely Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Reuters suggested that 3 billion euros would be allocated to Turkey out of a 5.77 billion Euros package.

Ambassador Meyer-Landrut did not speculate over the amount of money to be pledged to Turkey but said the size of the package would be adequate to the tasks in regards to hosting 4 million Syrians who have been living in Turkey for up to 10 years. The situation has changed since Turkey and the EU compromised over the migrant deal in 2016, and education, professional training and socio-economic development of these communities have become much more important, the ambassador stressed, informing that the financial assistance would be used in coordination with the Turkish government.

“This is not a European program independent of what Turkish authorities want to achieve, and the implementation of these programs is and will remain in close coordination, of course, with the Turkish authorities,” he stated.

Work on Customs Union continues

The 2016 migrant deal was comprehensive and contained a road map for Turkey-EU’s political relationship, highlighting modernization of customs union, visa liberalization and revival of accession talks as areas of cooperation. None of these could have been materialized since then, although the two sides continue to work on them.

“The statement from 2016 remains valid. What the European Council and now the commission are working on is a gradual implementation of the individual elements of this agenda and as such remained the basis for the cooperation,” he said, stressing that the issue of visa liberalization and Customs Union are on the agenda.

On Turkey’s prospects to officially start talks for the modernization of the Customs Union, Meyer-Landrut informed that the work for resolving the outstanding trade issues under the existing Customs Union have started and the newly appointed Turkish Trade Minister Mehmet Muş held meetings in Brussels on June 14.

“We will see how quickly we can progress on these issues, but the way is open for further steps. But we will be, at this stage, in a continuation of the decisions which are taken,” he said, referring to EU Council resolutions of March.

Addressing these problems and the full implementation of the Customs Union will constitute a very important signal and produce an environment that will be more conducive to take further steps for the modernization of the Customs Union, he added.

De-escalation due to Turkish restraint

De-escalation in the eastern Mediterranean has been genuinely recognized, particularly due to Turkish restraint and the continued dialogue between Ankara and Athens, the envoy said, adding that the creation of this environment was very much noted as a basis of the potential decisions by the EU.

Turkey and the EU can also cooperate in the field of health, and the latter has called on a high-level dialogue with the Turkish government against the pandemic, the German diplomat recalled, saying, “There is a growing consciousness that international cooperation - which also means cooperation between EU and Turkey, as a candidate state - is indispensable to fight such a pandemic.

Vaccine exports from the EU to Turkey, the research on vaccines in Turkey and the necessity to establish the necessary vaccine certificates are issues to be dealt with in an immediate term, but more long-term reflections should also be there, he suggested, citing preparedness for pandemics as a key matter. “Everybody is struggling to deal with the pandemic and everybody requires international cooperation, not only in the tourist season but also beyond it,” he said.

On a question about Turkey’s first national anti-coronavirus vaccine, TURKOVAC, the envoy said, “Every efficient and safe vaccine which is developed across the world and in Turkey is good. Research capacities are welcomed. We will need vaccines for the coming years. We will need to make sure that vaccine development takes into account variants. This COVID will remain with us for some time, even if now vaccination helps us to overcome the biggest problems, we will still for quite some time have to deal with the issue. And if it’s only because many parts of the world vaccination proceeding much slower than Europe or Turkey.”

Bursa may be an example of green cooperation

Bursa, which is one of Turkey’s most industrialized cities and hosts some major European and Turkish industries, primarily the automotive sector, may play an important role as an example of an environmental-friendly industrial hub, according to the EU envoy.

“In Bursa, you’ll find very tangible proof of the success of the Customs Union over the last 25 years and the positive impact it has had on Turkey and the European economy in terms of exchange in investment and employment, and so on,” he said.

“But you also see how closely Turkey and the Turkish industry are associated as a part of European value chains, particularly in the automotive sector. The transformation in this sector, for example, in terms of digitalization and in response to the green environmental challenges will affect the whole value chains,” the diplomat added.

Cooperation around these issues between Turkish and European corporates in Bursa – which is a center of the automobile industry - will be a very good example to this end, Meyer-Landrut pointed out.

“You have the European companies, you have the Turkish companies, and you have the sector. We have the common challenges and the same objectives to contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. I think it’s a point around which cooperation in this sector can crystallize,” he said.