Turkey Calls EU's Additional Aid for Refugees 'Big Delusion' That Won't Fix Migration

Turkey on Friday called the European Union's plan to provide additional aid for Syrian refugees on Turkish soil a "big delusion" that will not fix migration problems.

The EU is offering Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) to help with migration management and border controls, according to the Associated Press, which reports that 3.7 million Syrian refugees are estimated to reside in the country. Turkey called the move a way "to ensure the EU's own peace and security." The EU has already offered Turkey 6 billion euros ($7.2 billion) in an effort to persuade the country to stop refugees from leaving.

In a statement, Turkey's Foreign Ministry wrote that "reducing cooperation on migration to a financial dimension is a big delusion" and said more cooperation between the EU and Turkey is necessary.

The additional EU funds for Turkey would be provided over the next few years.

Displaced Syrian Woman
A Syrian woman, displaced from Ras al-Ain, a border town controlled by Turkey and its Syrian proxies, walks in front of tents in Syria's Washukanni camp on November 12, 2020. Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters, "It's about additional funds of 3 billion euros, then afterwards also funds for Lebanon and Jordan." She said the plan, drawn up by the EU's executive branch, "will soon be formally endorsed."

Well over 1 million migrants entered the EU in 2015, many of them fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq. The arrivals through Turkey overwhelmed facilities in the Greek islands and sparked one of the EU's biggest-ever political crises.

To persuade Turkey to stop people from leaving its territory, the 27-nation bloc offered the country the prospect of fast-track EU membership talks and visa-free travel in Europe for its citizens. Arrivals quickly dropped to a relative trickle, and the EU is keen to update the arrangement.

Membership talks are at a standstill, and Turkey has still not fulfilled several criteria to secure visa-free travel, but the European Commission has handed over most of the funds and will pay the rest as contracts are completed. Separately, it is providing a further half a billion euros for refugees there this year.

Lebanon and Jordan are also sheltering hundreds of thousands of refugees each. But Turkey is also a source of great concern for the EU, particularly disputed energy exploration work in the east Mediterranean that has heightened tensions with EU member states Greece and Cyprus.

In a working paper prepared for the summit, seen by the AP, the commission said the support "has been highly effective and efficient." It proposed that "a further 3 billion euros from the EU budget shall be dedicated until 2024 to support actions in Turkey."

It said that "in programming the actions under this package, will gradually move from humanitarian priorities to socio-economic support and development. This will include funding for migration management and border control, notably at Turkey's eastern border."

It's the first time that such EU funding has been earmarked for migration management and border controls. The earlier funds were spent directly on shelter and education projects for Syrian refugees in Turkey. None of that money went directly to the Turkish government.

The precise border area was not specified, but it's likely to refer to Turkey's frontiers with Syria and Iraq.

Merkel said the EU will continue to work on improving a customs arrangement it has with Turkey providing favorable tariffs on certain goods. "Of course, we expect further constructive behavior from Turkey. We have seen an improvement of the situation in the Mediterranean Sea," she said.

An additional 2.2 billion euros would be spent to help refugees and displaced people in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, according to the commission plan.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry called for a review of the Turkey-EU migration deal reached in 2016 in a manner that "responds to the needs of the day and common interests." It said that other European decisions about Turkey were far from "containing expected and necessary steps."

The ministry specifically complained that no decision was taken to implement a "positive agenda" in relations between the bloc and Turkey, including agreement on the customs union update. It insisted that Turkey has fulfilled its "responsibilities in terms of reducing tension and initiating a dialogue" with Greece.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi during Friday's EU summit in Brussels. Olivier Hoslet/Pool Photo via AP