Minister warns on delay in EU funds

Minister warns on delay in EU funds

Minister warns on delay in EU funds

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Volkan Bozkır, Turkey’s EU minister and its chief negotiator with the bloc, has warned the EU that a delay in the delivery of migration funds worth 3 billion euros to Turkey would also cause a delay in implementing more effective measures to handle refugees in the country.

“We are pleased that a decision has been reached to deliver 3 billion euros [to Turkey]. But, in the nature of things, there needs to be a consensus on the list of requirements Turkey prepared and presented [to the EU] in a very short time, and this money needs to be swiftly spent on the places where it needs to be spent,” said Bozkır on Feb. 5 after meeting European Commissioner for European and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis and European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica in Brussels.

European Union countries approved on Feb. 3 funds for Turkey to help refugees and migrants in the country in exchange for Ankara ensuring fewer of them venture toward Europe.

Bozkır said a swift decision now needed be made to ensure a quick result. 

“We discussed this topic and we agreed to accelerate the technical negotiations,” said Bozkır. 

Turkey currently hosts more than 2.5 million refugees, more than 90 percent of whom have come from Syria due to the five-year-old civil war, which has killed at least 260,000 people and affected millions of people, according to U.N. figures. 

Bozkır said it had become apparent that the EU cannot operate without Turkey, noting that if Turkey had been a member of the EU before, the EU would not have encountered the current situation with the influx of Syrian migrants. 

More than 1 million Syrian refugees arrived in the European Union, mostly via Greece, in 2015. 

“Therefore, we stand before a picture in which the relations between the EU and Turkey will be much warmer, visas will be lifted and Turkey will become a member of the EU before 2023, which is the centennial of the Turkish Republic,” said Bozkır. 

He said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu would visit the Netherlands on Feb. 10 as a guest of the country that currently holds the presidency of the European Council, adding that during the visit the two countries – and thus the EU – would enhance their relationship. 

Bozkır said Davutoğlu would attend a meeting with a group of EU countries that share likeminded thoughts on the issue of immigration on Feb. 18 in Brussels, with Germany, France, the Netherlands and the European Commission head also slated to attend. 

Turkey last attended such a meeting on Dec. 17, 2015, in Brussels. It was held at the Austrian Embassy in Brussels with nearly a dozen European leaders.