The European Union has paid the final instalment of a €6 billion fund to Turkey as part of a deal on hosting refugees. The 2016 agreement has led to standoffs, as Turkey claimed that it had not received all the money promised.
In a statement on December 17, the EU delegation to Turkey, led by Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, said that it had finalized "the contracting of €6 billion in EU support to refugees and host communities in Turkey," reported the French news agency AFP. On Twitter, it described the finalization as a “major milestone accomplished.”
The EU-Turkey deal was struck in March 2016 to try to ease Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War Two, which saw more than a million people arrive in Europe in 2015. The terms of the deal stipulated that Turkey would agree to accept the return of migrants from Greece who did not qualify for asylum, and would do more to control its borders and the numbers attempting to leave Turkey for Greece and admission to the EU.
In return, the EU promised €6 billion in aid. However, earlier this year the Turkish government accused the EU of having reneged on its payments and claimed to have spent around €32 billion on hosting the community of 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, AFP reports.
In spring 2020, the EU and Turkey came to a standoff with Turkey saying it would refuse to control its borders to Greece if the monies were not paid. The EU said that it had paid everything it had promised up to that point. Talks between the two sides calmed the waters but not before Turkey had allegedly helped bus thousands of migrants to the Greek border, where some managed to cross but many more were blocked by Greek border guards.
Focus on making sure refugees benefit
The EU delegation said that now all the money has been handed over, it hopes that the two countries will "focus on making sure that the refugees and host communities will benefit from our projects."
AFP reported that the EU money was not paid directly to the Turkish government but had been "earmarked for specific social projects inside Turkey for helping refugees." Some of the money supports health services for migrants and other projects seek to improve living conditions for vulnerable refugee communities.
The English version of Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet Daily News, said the EU delegation was contracted to provide not just basic needs and healthcare for refugees but also "protection, municipal infrastructure and vocational and technical education and training, employment and support to private sector SMEs and entrepreneurship." This was estimated to cost €780 million.
Hurriyet added that the EU was allocating €300 million to support Migrant Health Services in Turkey. The Turkish Family, Labor and Social Services Ministry will take charge of two different projects to ease living conditions for vulnerable refugees and offer them "protective social services."
A smaller social assistance project to the tune of €245 million will be able to offer refugees cash payments when needed.
The French development agency AFD will be receiving €59 million to improve municipal infrastructure, including “the construction or the rehabilitation of water, wastewater and solid waste systems.”
A further €156 million will be for development projects, reported Hurriyet. A German state development bank KfW will be running vocational training projects for young people in the refugee and host communities. They will also receive €75 million to support Syrian and Turkish small and medium businesses.
According to Hurriyet, Meyer-Landrut commended Turkey for hosting so many refugees and further promised that the EU would "be prepared to continue providing financial assistance to Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey."
Adnan Ertem, the Deputy Family, Labor and Social Services Minister, told Hurriyet that the Turkish Red Crescent would be Turkey’s main partner in the project.
Turkey 'could face extended sanctions'
Meanwhile, in Greece, the English language news site Ekathimerini sounded a more negative vote. As one deal was finalized, it warned that Turkey was "at risk of extended sanctions by March," over its drilling operations inside the Republic of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone EEZ.
Ekathimerini said that, if imposed, the sanctions could also be extended to entities and not just placed on individuals. Earlier in October, the European Commission handed a mandate to EU Commissioner Josep Borrell to prepare a report on the "state of play concerning the EU-Turkey political, economic and trade relations and on instruments and options on how to proceed, including on the extension and the scope" of the sanctions.