Ankara has called on Brussels to take the necessary steps to fulfill the remaining parts of the Turkey-EU March 18 Agreement.
Addressing a ceremony to appoint new judges and prosecutors in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday that Turkey will ask the EU to keep its promise of over three billion euros in aid for Syrian refugees at the summit in Bulgarian port city of Varna next week.
"The promises given to us have not been delivered. They promised the right for visa-free travel, they did not keep it. They promised 3 + 3 billion euros in aid. So far, the aid that has gone into our vault is 850 million euros," Erdoğan said, saying many institutions are being brought into the equation to make it difficult for the money to be used by the Turkish side.
"Now they are talking about the second three billion euros in aid. But we have not received the first one," he added.
In a written statement released on its official Twitter account on Sunday, the Ministry of EU Affairs underlined that the European Union "unfortunately has not honored all its commitments." The ministry also said that even though Turkey has fulfilled its obligations regarding the March 18 Agreement, the EU has failed to do so since then.
Despite Ankara's efforts, the statement underlined that there are not enough strong and fast steps taken by the EU. "We expect the EU to take concrete steps on accession negotiations, visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and updating the Customs Union," it said.
With regards to the second anniversary of the March 18 Turkey-EU Statement, the EU Ministry highlighted important points about the aforementioned remaining parts of the agreement.
The statement pointed out that since the implementation of steps Turkey has provided a safe and legal pathway for migrants, while curbing irregular migration. Average daily irregular crossings numbers in October 2015 have declined from 7,000 to around 43.
"The March 18 Statement not only curbed the flow of irregular migrants that plunged Europe into an existential crisis, but also reduced the number of migrants who have lost their lives along the route," it said.
Turkey and the EU signed an agreement on March 18, 2016, to stem the influx of refugees to Europe. Turkey has been a 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, saving the lives of many of those who would have attempted the treacherous journey by sea.
The EU gave Turkey a list of 72 criteria to fulfill for visa-free travel for Turkish nationals after the two sides signed an agreement in March 2016. The 28 EU member states and European Parliament must approve the visa scheme. The EU has said that Turkey has completed 65 of the listed criteria, but needs to change its terrorism laws and make the necessary regulations concerning the independence of Turkey's Data Protection Board.
"There are seven remaining benchmarks, and five of them can easily be met," EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos told a group of Turkish journalists in Brussels on Dec. 6, 2017.
The Turkish government recently submitted a proposal to the European Union in regards to how it plans to make the necessary regulations in line with Brussels' conditions.
According to a recent report in the German media, Ankara's proposal to the European Union concerning its fulfillment of the remaining benchmarks was considered to be positive in Brussels. However, an official evaluation of Ankara's proposal has not been made public yet.
The issue is expected to be on the table at the European Union summit on March 26 in the Bulgarian port city of Varna, which President Erdoğan will attend.
European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, whose country currently holds the EU term presidency, will meet President Erdoğan "to discuss EU-Turkey relations as well as regional and international issues," Tusk's spokesman previously tweeted.
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