Billions in EU funding aimed at supporting Syrian refugees in Turkey and stemming the migrant flow to Europe is not being disbursed quickly enough, Turkey’s Ministry for EU Affairs said Saturday.
Some €6 billion in financing has been committed under two agreements signed between Brussels and Ankara in 2015 and 2016, but only a fraction of the total has so far been disbursed and cash is not being used for its intended purpose, the ministry said.
The Turkish government said that it has used over $30 billion of its own money to look after some 3.5 million migrants who have fled over the border since civil war started in Syria in 2011.
At a summit in November 2015, the EU agreed to provide €3 billion in financial aid while another meeting in March 2016 committed to supplying a further €3 billion by the end of 2018.
Of the total, just €1.78 billion had been transferred by the EU, with €1.3 billion sent to organizations running projects and €402 million given directly to ministries, the Turkish statement said. Specifically, the ministry said that €120 million had been allocated to the Ministry of Health, some €270 million to the Ministry of Education and €12 million to the Interior Ministry.
A European Commission spokesperson said that contracts had been agreed for the first €3 billion in financing, “meaning the EU has delivered on its commitment in full.” The Commission said it has funded 45 humanitarian projects in Turkey over the last two years.
In addition to the financing, Turkey also received a commitment from Brussels for visa-free travel into the bloc for its citizens and a re-launch of EU accession talks in return for working to halt the flow of migrants over the Aegean Sea to nearby Greece.
But since then, diplomatic relations have taken a nose dive, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crackdown on opponents, academics and journalists after a failed coup in July last year.
Turkish officials argue that without their help, a further 1.5 million migrants would have arrived in the EU in 2017, with some 3.2 million Syrians and 300,000 Iraqis and Afghans currently under temporary protection in the country.
“It is clear that the EU needs to fulfil its commitments faster when the needs of the Syrians are taken into consideration,” the ministry said. “For the Syrians, the EU’s commitment to financial aid is not just a financial issue. It is a human responsibility to the people who have escaped from internal confusion and death in their lands.”