Turkey wants EU aid as long as Syrian crisis lasts
Turkey and the European Union started official talks on Nov 29 in Brussels on how to best use the second three billion Euros to be provided by Brussels for 4 million Syrians being hosted in the former’s territories since the beginning of the civil war in 2011.
Talks are part of a bilateral statement clinched in March 2016 that obliges EU to provide six billion Euros for the well-being of Syrian refugees in Turkey in return of the assurances by the Turkish government to stop the flow of refugees towards the European continent via Greek islands. The first three billion Euros have been fully contracted although 1.7 billion Euros could be delivered.
“In the light of the lessons we have drawn from the implementation of the first package, we are trying to shape a better and more effective plan for the use of the second three billion Euros,” a senior Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News. The first task of these talks is to outline on which areas the EU funds will be canalized.
“The difference between the first and second packages is that we opted to use the first 3 billion Euros for the immediate needs of the refugees. For example, around 900 million Euros were distributed in cash through monthly allowances to the refugees,” said the official. “However, the second trench will focus on the integration projects, education and projects for harmonization of Syrians with the host communities.”
The idea behind this plan is the fact that there is no sign when the Syrian turmoil will end and that a good majority of Syrians will not be willing to return home soon. This perspective is well shared by both Ankara and Brussels and that’s why education as a whole will have an important weight in the use of the second three billion Euros.
Education projects will have two targets: to increase the number of Syrian children having a proper education, to launch vocational courses for the Syrian youngsters and to teach Turkish to them so that they can better integrate with the Turkish community. For example, families who don’t send their children to school will not be able to receive their monthly allowances, the official explained as one of the measures to this end. Around 1.4 million Syrian enjoy these monthly allowances.
It’s obvious that more schools need to be built and special training need to be given to the teachers, including Syrian ones, in order to effectively address this problem. Around half of 4 million refugees is young and need to be educated, the official explained, as the only way not to disrupt the social order in areas where refugees and Turkish communities live side by side.
But integration of four million Syrians with the Turkish communities is surely not an easy task and requires more time and more money. “That’s why we tell EU and the international community that their assistance to the Syrians should continue as long as the Syrian crisis endures. We have so far spent around $32 billion and we will do our best in hosting Syrians fleeing the war. But our resources are limited,” the official said.
The EU’s assistance to Syrians should continue even after the completion of the second three billion Euros, the official underlined, reiterating this call on relevant UN bodies, such as FAO, UNDP, UNICEF and etc.
Turkey is also working on increasing the funds to be used for Syrians through low interest rate loan to be provided from the European Investment Bank and the World Bank, the official stressed.
Will EU funds to be used in Idlib, Jarablus?
One important issue to be discussed between Ankara and Brussels is on the former’s demands for the use of part of the second 3 billion Euros to come on Turkey’s ongoing projects in northern Syrian provinces, like Idlib, Jarablus or Afrin.
“Increasing life conditions of Syrians in these provinces would encourage the return of more Syrians. A part of second financial assistance would be allocated for our projects in these provinces,” the official stated but also underlining that the EU funds do correspond to the Syrians being sheltered inside Turkey. It will obviously require a rather political decision rather than a technical one.
There are no magical solutions to the refugee problem, the Turkish official underlined, but also stressing growing confidence-based relationship between Ankara and Brussels in joint handling the issue. With the intensified dialogue between Turkey and EU, works to make life conditions better for Syrians will sure be more efficient and yield desired results.