European politicians have reached a compromise on how to finance billions in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey. In return, Ankara has pledged to stem the flow of migrants to the European Union.
Under the financing deal agreed on Wednesday, the European Commission will double its initial share of the fund to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) while the EU 28 member states pay the remaining 2 billion euros. Germany will contribute the largest sum with 427.5 million euros coming from Berlin, followed by the UK, France and Italy, which will each provide 224.9 million euros.
"The money we are putting on the table will directly benefit Syrian refugees in Turkey, helping to improve their access to education and healthcare in particular," said EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
The Brussels deal came as Europe continues to grapple with the huge number of migrants who arrived on the continent in 2015. Many of the 1 million asylum seekers who arrived last year crossed through Turkey to reach Greece by boat, after fleeing the conflict in Syria.
The EU initially promised to provide Turkey with financial aid to cope with the Syrian asylum seekers in November. Negotiations were stalled, however, by disputes over who should foot the bill.
Italy was at the forefront of the haggling, previously questioning how much of the aid should come from the EU budget and how much control the bloc will have over how Ankara spends the funds.
Following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday that his country would "give our contribution to solve the issue posed by Turkey."
As part of the deal, Turkey is expected to help the EU by curbing the number migrants arriving in Europe.
EU - leading contributor
Wednesday's decision came just a day ahead of an international donors' conference for Syrians, due to take place in London. In addition to the funds for Turkey, the EU hopes also to be a leading contributor to relief efforts for Lebanon and Jordan, which are both accommodating a large number of Syrian refugees.
"It is an important concern for the commission to do everything so that the refugees can live as close to possible to their countries of origin," EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told EU lawmakers earlier on Wednesday.
ksb/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)