Prior to Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey and her scheduled meeting with President Erdogan, Ankara has accused Germany and the EU of not adhering to the refugee agreement. Inter alia, committed funds had not been fully paid, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt said. “We stick to the agreement, but what about the European Union?” Cavusoglu asked during an interview with a German newspaper.
The EU had promised to pay the first three billion euros for the care and support of Syrian refugees at the end of 2016, and another three by the end of 2018, the minister said. However, in reality, these commitments had not materialized yet. “It is now 2020, and we still have not received the first three billion Euro in full.”
Cavusoglu, he stated, was cognizant that Germany was in a difficult situation due to several Central and Eastern European countries that refuse to accept any refugees. However, additional agreements had also not been adhered to: “There has not been an expansion of the customs union and nor any new initiation in the EU accession negotiations with Turkey, “Cavusoglu continued. For all these reasons, “we could have opened our borders. We were entitled to do so, but we did not. Our President said: If you do not adhere to the deal, you will have to take the refugees yourself and Europe perceived this as a threat?” Nonetheless, and despite all the animosity, Cavusoglu emphasized: “We are for a continuation of the agreement.”
However, as reasonable as Turkey’s complaints appear to be, Cavusoglu’s claims do not correlate with the statements of the European Union. According to the EU Commission, contracts worth 4.7 billion euros had been signed for services, of which 3.2 billion had been paid out already. The first payment included projects that, in individual cases, will run until mid-2021. With the second payment, the term would occasionally extend to 2025.
The European money aims to funds projects for humanitarian aid and socio-economic support as well as in the areas of education, health, and urban infrastructure. There are currently four million refugees in Turkey, of whom 3.6 million are Syrians. The projects focus on the border regions around Gaziantep and Hatay as well as on the metropolitan regions of Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir.
The EU particularly supports refugees who do not live in camps and are at risk, but also the cities in which the refugees live so that they have access to good education, medical care, and other services. A steering committee, in which Turkey is involved in an advisory capacity, identifies the need and individual projects. It determines to what extent and in what way a project is financed.
The EU program currently provides 1.7 million Syrian refugees with humanitarian aid for their daily needs. They also receive grocery cards with which they can shop. More than half a million refugee children are supported so that they can go to school. To date, the program has enabled more than 1.5 million pregnancy counseling sessions.
Moreover, with the EU funds, 180 new schools have been built. The salaries of 4,500 teachers who provide Turkish language classes to 250,000 refugee children and the school transport of 40,000 Syrian students are also being financed. Support classes for 52,000 Syrian students were also made possible. One hundred seventy-nine health centers with more than 2900 employees are still under construction. So far, 650,000 refugee children have been vaccinated, and health centers have provided more than eight million medical consultations.
The fact that the Turkish foreign minister repeated the criticism, which had already come from Ankara, nonetheless now, right before Merkel’s visit to Turkey, suggests that Erdogan will discuss the issue with Merkel. While accession talks are currently inconceivable due to Turkey’s actions in Syria and its increased pro-Russia stance, it will be interesting to see whether and how the EU reacts to the recent statements, and whether Erdogan, should his monetary demands not be met, upholds his threats to the EU and open the borders for refugees to Europe – despite the billions of Euros the Europeans already paid.