The EU Commission is seeking to increase its financial obligations for refugees in Turkey by almost half a billion euros. However, the decision not only exacerbates the blackmailing Turkey has been conducting but displays the inefficiencies and the risk the refugee deal carried ab initio.
Details of the Deal
The European Union plans to increase its aid payments for refugees in Turkey and will provide an additional 485 million euros in its attempt to fund the continuation of two key projects. The funds will be paid in addition to the six billion euros that the European Union already pledged in its 2016 refugee agreement with Turkey.
As part of the deal, Ankara has promised that all refugees arriving in the Greek Aegean Islands will be accepted and cared for in Turkey. They are doing this in exchange for the aforementioned financial incentives.
Since then, however, the Turkish government has been accusing the EU of paying the funds too slowly and has not only repeatedly admonished to cease its adherence to the agreement, but also threatened to open the gates for refugees into Europe, if financial considerations were not increased.
Turkey Opens the Gates to Europe
In March the Turkish government let thousands of refugees travel to its border with Greece, exacerbating the pressure on the EU further. Several EU member states, including Germany and France, subsequently promised Turkey further EU funds for the care of refugees, although the EU repeatedly asserted that the agreement had already been fully adhered to.
Now the EU Commission seeks to provide the additional funds to defuse the conflict with Ankara. The funds should, therefore, be mobilized directly and at short notice via the current EU 2020 budget. However, the EU Parliament and the Council of Member States still have to approve an associated change in the 2020 budget.
Did Erdogan’s Blackmail Work?
Although the EU has surrendered to Erdogan’s extortion, the Commission claims that it is not Erdogan’s threats that have brought the EU to act, but rather a worsening of the circumstances associated with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent pandemic.
The EU Commission warned that the economic situation in Turkey had deteriorated sharply due to COVID-19 and that unprotected refugees were the most affected by the crisis. It was therefore urgent that the necessary funds be made available to finance the continuation of the two main humanitarian measures in EU aid.
The so-called Security Network for Emergency Situations (ESSN) is to continue to finance 400 million euros, from which around 1.7 million refugees in Turkey will receive monthly money transfers for essential goods. This program would, therefore, expire without an increase by March 2021 at the latest. A further 85 million euros is to be used to secure a program that supports families of schoolchildren and whose funds only last until September or October.
Help for Lebanon and Jordan’s Refugee Crises
In addition to aid to Turkey, the EU Commission also plans to increase support for Jordan and Lebanon in accepting refugees. Both countries, which also accept refugees from Syria, should thus receive an additional 100 million euros in 2020, in addition to the 214 million euros that were already pledged for the current year.
The continuous aid to Turkey is nevertheless politically explosive. What critics feared during the negotiations of the refugee agreement in 2016, namely that the European Union could be held hostage by Ankara and its despot Erdogan, has been apparent for the better part of the deal.
Still, the way Erdogan was able to coerce the European Union into submission raises the question of whether the EU possesses a Plan B in case Ankara demands even more ransom payments in the future. At any measure, the European Union has now officially become an ATM for Turkey, which, it would appear, can be used without any consequences. This is all done in the name of humanity and at the expense of European taxpayers.