Ankara reiterated its expectations that the EU will implement the promises made in the March 2016 refugee deal, including a visa-free travel deal, and share more of the burden as a new wave of refugees from northwestern Syria heading toward the West is imminent. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs Faruk Kaymakçı underlined Sunday that European Union countries remain incapable of coping with the refugee crisis and that Turkey is waiting for the EU to fulfill the necessities of the agreement reached in March 2016.
"When Turkey takes a step regarding migration, it not only undertakes the responsibility for itself but also that of Europe. Thus, all EU member countries have to address the burden of migration as Turkey does and have to share the heavy weight that Turkey carries," Kaymakçı said during his visit to Berlin. Indicating that the issue of migration is a global issue, he pointed out that Turkey is currently the country taking on the most responsibility for the humanitarian crisis.
Turkey has been hosting the largest number of refugees worldwide for the fifth consecutive year with almost 3.6 million people, most of them refugees that fled from the Syrian civil war. The war has left hundreds of thousands displaced, injured or even dead.
EU countries have been discussing this issue for two years; however, no concrete steps have been taken. Turkish politicians and officials frequently warn the international community that a further humanitarian disaster could take place with the ongoing war and that a sustainable solution has to be found for the new refugees as well as those already living in bad conditions. Kaymakçı stated that Turkey expects the financial aid for the refugees to be improved and transferred faster.
"Turkey has to solve this refugee crisis, which it has not caused, together with the EU. Turkey is not only protecting its own borders along Iran, Iraq and Syria, it is also protecting those of the EU and NATO," Kaymakçı said, adding that Turkey hopes that their European friends will take more solid and realistic steps in the upcoming period.
Out of the promised funds of 6 billion euros ($6.62 billion), over 5.6 billion euros have been allocated, 3.5 billion euros contracted and over 2.4 billion euros have already been disbursed, with over 80 projects already rolled out.
He also stressed that he will discuss in detail updating the customs union and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens during his program in Berlin.
Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement in 2016 to find a solution to the influx of refugees heading to the union. According to the deal, Turkey was promised a total of 6 billion euros in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages to be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian refugees. Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens was also promised in the agreement. Lastly, the customs union was also to be updated in accordance with the deal. In exchange for these promises, Turkey took the responsibility of discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of the approximately 4 million Syrians living in Turkey.
Although the first stage of the funding was provided to Turkey, based on the commission's progress report on migration, the EU failed to provide the rest of the funding and did not fulfill its other promises within the given time frames. Likewise, negotiations for updating the customs union have yet to start, despite the deal stating they must be done by the end of 2016.