Turkey's contribution to European security invaluable: Erdoğan
“With the precautions we have taken, we forestalled many humanitarian tragedies in the Aegean [sea] and prevented the irregular [border] crossings to Europe. Thus, we have made invaluable contributions to the security of the European continent, notably the Balkan states,” Erdoğan said in his speech at the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit in Sarajevo, on July 9.
“But we did not see the support and humanitarian approach we expected from our European friends during this difficult process,” he added.
Turkey, along with Balkan states, were left to “carry the burden of irregular migration flows” with respect to their strategic locations concerning the matter, according to Erdoğan.
“We are facing pressure of intense irregular migration flow from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa. Turkey is currently the host of 4 million refugees, 3.6 million out of whom are Syrians, whereas Europe cannot even fulfill its own quotas,” the president stressed.
Turkey has spent over $37 billion on Syrian asylum seekers, according to data from the United Nations, Erdoğan said.
“In this regard, our country ranks first in humanitarian aid, in proportion to national income,” he said.
He also accused the European Union for not fulfilling its commitments, under a 2016 deal, to provide Turkey with financial assistance for Syrian refugees.
The deal Erdoğan was referring to was a financial aid package of 6 billion euros for the care of Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Up until now, Turkey received 2.5 billion euros as part of the deal, the president said.
During its chairmanship term of SEECP between 2020-2021, Turkey would focus on such issues as migration, human resources, transit and communication routes across the region, Erdoğan stressed.
‘Globalization necessitates more cooperation’
Erdoğan also underlined that regional cooperation, especially the SEECP summit, is beneficial for both participating countries, but also for peace, stability, and welfare of Europe.
“The increasing discriminatory and marginalizing trends among the continent threaten the possibility of Europe becoming a hope. We believe that European leaders will move in a visionary manner and protect the ideal of convergence of the Balkans with Europe,” he said.
He also stressed that the EU’s decision about North Macedonia and Albania’s membership negotiations would directly reflect the future of the entire region.
The president also pointed out to the need to improve economic cooperation to increase the competitiveness in a globalized world.
“It is unthinkable for us to fall behind in digitalization in such a period. It is important for us to strengthen the digital infrastructure between our countries,” he said.
“We need to become a region which fulfills the economic conditions of the 21st century and promote technological innovation,” Erdoğan added.
After the summit, Erdoğan met with North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski.
Erdoğan is expected to end his two-day visit to Sarajevo after participating in an event to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.