EU Commission approves €3 billion funding for Syrian refugees in Turkey

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
Published

The European Commission said it will grant a further 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) in funding for Syrian refugees living in Turkey as part of a refugee deal signed in 2016, reports said Wednesday.

The commission is preparing for the allocation of a further 3 billion euros, as agreed in 2016. Of that, 1 billion euros should come from the EU budget and 2 billion euros should be contributed by member states, Avramopoulos said.

It is unclear whether EU governments will back the proposal after France and Germany had argued that the entire sum should come from EU coffers.

In a statement, the commission said: "The first tranche of the Facility set up in 2016 was made up of €1 billion [$1.24 billion] from the EU budget and €2 billion [$2.48 billion] from Member States' contributions.

"The Commission proposes to continue this arrangement so that the successful and effective work of the Facility for projects benefiting refugees in Turkey can continue."

The offer came ahead of a key EU-Turkey summit set for March 26 in Varna, Bulgaria bringing together EU leaders and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

The bloc will also restrict travel for countries refusing to take back their citizens who fail to obtain asylum in Europe.

The latest measures to curb immigration from the Middle East and Africa, which overwhelmed the bloc when it surged in 2015-16, were announced by the EU's top migration official, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Some 1.8 million refugees and migrants have reached Europe across the Mediterranean since 2014, according to U.N. figures, causing friction among member states at odds over how to handle them and lifting support for nationalist and populist parties.

The EU has since been tightening its external borders and asylum laws, as well as offering money and other help to third countries in exchange for preventing people from trekking north.

Turkey and EU signed an agreement on March 18, 2016, to stem the inflow of refugees to Europe, which is considered unbearable by the EU. Turkey has been the main route for refugees trying to cross into Europe since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. With the agreement, irregular arrivals decreased by 99 percent; thus, it also prevented the loss of many lives on the sea.

The deal included a 6 billion euro aid package to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted in the country, and the EU promised to initially allocate 3 billion euros in its first tranche for projects to support Syrian refugees. The deal was also to provide visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area. However, this is also yet to be implemented as relations between Turkey and the EU have been strained and await resolution.

Some EU countries' stance toward critical issues for Turkey's national security has further increased the tension. Officials from Ankara have been calling on Europe to give up its oscillating stance and take Turkey's legitimate concerns into consideration.

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