The European Union assured Turkey on Jan. 25 that a package of three billion euros for Syrian refugees will soon be released, also stressing the need to further stem the influx of irregular migrants from Turkey to Europe before a key summit to take place on Feb. 18 in Brussels.
“The talks are ongoing. I am very confident that the amount that was decided before will be there in very reasonable timing” EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said at a press conference in Ankara after high-level political meetings with senior Turkish officials.
Mogherini, European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır came around the same table as part of enhanced political dialogue between Ankara and Brussels following the Nov. 29 joint statement. The EU delegation later met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
“Today's high-level political dialogue is an essential element of our overall framework of dialogue and cooperation. It provided us with the opportunity to discuss issues high on both of our agendas in a comprehensive manner and that will feed into the preparation of the next EU-Turkey Summit” read a joint statement issued after the Jan. 25 meetings.
One of the most urgent issues is the delivery of a financial aid worth 3 billion euros to Turkey to step up support for Syrian and other refugees in Turkey in exchange for the Turkish authorities cutting the illegal flow of migrants to Europe. Italy has blocked the release of the money because of an internal disagreement within the EU. Mogherini said she wanted to play down “this dramatic approach” over the issue, emphasizing that the funds were “not pocket money.”
“We are doing the preparatory work for spending this money in an appropriate way. Because again it's not pocket money, it's money that goes to projects. The commission is carrying out all the assessments of the needs for the projects,” she said.
Money for schooling and medical needs
Çavuşoğlu also sought to urge calm over the delay. “We don't take it personally … But any delay is affecting the daily life of the refugees, their schooling and their medical needs,” he said.
The joint statement reiterated its commitment to provide the financial assistance. “The EU confirmed its commitment to expand significantly its overall financial support by creating a EUR 3 billion Refugee Facility for Turkey. The need to finalize and swiftly move forward the implementation of the Refugee Facility in cooperation with Turkey, in line with the needs assessment, was underlined,” it stated.
Number of irregular migrants should decrease
Turkish and EU officials also reviewed the results of recently intensified efforts to stem the number of refugees traveling from Turkey to Europe before a crucial summit between Turkey and eight like-minded countries in February.
“The need to achieve further results in stemming the influx of irregular migrants and in fighting criminal smuggling networks was underlined. Turkey and the EU agreed to step up their cooperation to reinforce the interception capacity of the Turkish Coast Guard and acknowledged the importance of maintaining a system of coordinated reporting on migration and refugee flows,” the joint statement read.