EU should increase funds for Syrian refugees, official says

EU should increase funds for Syrian refugees, official says

ANKARA-Anadolu Agency
EU should increase funds for Syrian refugees, official says

The EU should accelerate and increase the flow of aid funds to refugees in Turkey, a Turkish deputy foreign affairs minister said on Dec. 14.

Faruk Kaymakçı, who is also the director for EU Affairs, told foreign reporters: "We appreciate the funds, which are provided by the EU. But I will leave it to your judgment. So far, migration crisis costs us more than $40 billion."

"The EU is only talking about €6 billion [$6.6 billion] since March 2016. So the first €3 billion has been completely allocated," he said, adding that only €2 billion have reached Syrians so far, with the remaining €1 billion pending. "It is coming, it is planned, but it has not reached the Syrians," he added.

Underlining that even the entire €6 billion would not be enough to resolve the Syrians' plight, Kaymakçı said: "The EU should accelerate this flow of funds, and it should also increase funding."

He stressed that Ankara and Brussels should continue to cooperate to tackle the migration crisis.

Turkey is the largest host country for Syrian refugees and provides international protection to 3.6 million people, who fled the neighboring country.

The EU facility supports refugees and host communities by financing projects in education, healthcare, improving the infrastructure and developing the economy.

Underlining that relations between Turkey and the EU are not "confined to migration", Kaymakçı said:

"Migration actually is an issue which brought Turkey and the EU closer, but which also proves that Turkey is an important European country," he said.

Turkey and the EU signed a deal in March 2016, which aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey. 

New EU leadership

During his remarks, Kaymakçı complained of a lack of "strong" and "visionary" leadership in the EU.

"Everyone is going populist, maybe this is the result of populism and the rise of far-right," he said, adding: "So we don't know what we will see in the future in terms of the European integration process."

However, Kaymakçı expressed hope in the new leaders of the bloc, with the "young", "more female" EU parliament. "It may be interesting to work with this new parliament," he said.

"We hope the new president of the [EU] Commission [Ursula von der Leyen] can better understand Turkey," he said, adding that Europe could also better understand its own as well as NATO's borders.

The southeastern borders of Turkey are the borders of Europe, borders of NATO and borders of the customs union between Turkey and the EU, said Kaymakçı.

"But unfortunately, some of our colleagues are not able to understand this in the rest of Europe," he said.

Since the beginning of 2019, Turkey has improved and normalized relations with various European nations, especially Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, he added, noting that the "tension" and "strong" exchanges of words between Turkey and the countries caused friction.

"Of course, it is not to the level we still expect, but we have at least normalized relations," he said. 

Turkey's EU bid

Kaymakçı noted that EU Commission President von der Leyen had held a phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the first day of her duty to discuss Turkey-EU relations.

"We hope we might open a new page in our relations," he said, adding: "At least from the Turkey side, this is our sincere wish."

On Dec. 6, Erdoğan also received European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and other delegation members in the capital Ankara.

The visit marked the first visit from Brussels after the new EU leadership took office on Dec. 1.

The statement made by the EU delegation just after the visit on Dec. 6, said: "The visit was an occasion to show concretely that the EU is committed to continuing its engagement and cooperation with Turkey, as a candidate country, a key strategic partner and neighbor."

Kaymakçı added: "In the coming three, four months -- probably by the end of May -- we will see the enlargement strategy by the European Commission, but also we might see a report from the European Parliament that we are going to follow closely."

Describing Turkey's accession to the EU as the "most complicated, the most challenged and the most questioned" membership scheme yet, he said: "Turkey wants full membership to the EU."

"Turkey is committed to the EU accession process. It might be slow [...] But this is the will of the Turkish people.

"When it happens, it will be the most meaningful, most valuable and the most important accession," he said, adding: "This is why it takes some time."

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and its accession talks began in 2005. But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to the objections of the Greek Cypriot administration as well as opposition from Germany and France.