EU team visits Ankara for talks on migrants
Two senior officials from the European Union Commission visited Ankara on Dec. 6 with a focus on cooperation on migration issues, marking a first visit from Brussels after the new EU leadership took office on Dec. 1.
Margaritis Schinas, vice president for promoting European way of life and Ylva Johansson, commissioner for home affairs, met senior Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They also met with Vice President Fuat Oktay, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Deputy Speaker of the Turkish Parliament Levent Gök and Deputy Foreign Minister and Director of EU Affairs Ambassador Faruk Kaymakçı.
After the meetings, Vice-President Schinas and Commissioner Johansson visited the Turkish Parliament and laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the attempted coup in July 2016. Schinas and Ylva took the office on Dec. 1 under the cabinet of president of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Turkey and the EU have cooperated in the field of migration since March 2016 after they agreed to a joint statement that has curbed the flow of Syrian refugees from Turkey into Europe in return for the latter providing 6 billion euros between 2016 and 2019.
But as of mid-2019, only 2.22 billion euros have been disbursed. It additionally pledged visa liberalization for Turkish citizens traveling to EU Schengen states, talks on updating the Customs Union trade deal and a re-energized commitment to Turkey’s accession process. It has fulfilled none of those.
The EU member states also pledged that for every Syrian returned to Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU as part of a resettlement plan. But the pace of returns to Turkey from the Greek islands under the agreement has been slow largely due to lengthy legal processes and administrative problems in Greece.
The EU member states have accepted only around 20,000 Syrian refugees from Turkey since 2016.
Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.