The EU is paying Turkey money agreed under their migrant deal. All other claims are "simply not true," said the chief EU Commission spokesman, rejecting President Erdogan's claims. Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels.
Back in March, the EU states and Turkey agreed that in 2016 and 2017, the bloc would pay Ankara a total of 3 billion euros for a refugee aid scheme. The funding is part of a repatriation deal in which refugees and migrants are to be returned from Greece to Turkey.
According to EU reports, 740 million euros have already been allocated for specific refugee projects. Agreements worth 150 million euros have been reached with private aid organizations and the United Nations. Around 105 million euros have already been paid out.
The EU Commission's chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, has refuted the Turkish President's claims that the EU has paid just 1 to 2 million euros. "The European Union is respecting its commitments and suggestions to the contrary are not true, Schinas said.
"The [European] governments are not honest," Erdogan said. "Three million Syrians, or people from Iraq, are now in Turkey."
"The EU has not kept its promises on the matter," he added.
The EU Commission in Brussels pointed out that the promised 3 billion euros are tied to projects for refugee care, accommodation, education and integration. Schinas noted the funds are for "refugees and the host communities in Turkey, not for the government."
By the end of July, another 1.4 billion euros will be approved for refugee projects, Schinas said. The proposal has been on the table for weeks. By the end of the summer, 2.1 billion euros will have been spent for the refugees and thus, everything is running according to schedule, believes the Commission. It will, however, take some time before the money actually reaches its destination, admit EU officials.
"Of course, projects are processed according to European budgetary rules. The EU examines where the money goes and what its impact will be," said Schinas.
Joint committee controls aid allocation
In Brussels, EU Commission officials who are working on the Turkey–EU deal find it hard to understand the Turkish president's sweeping criticism. The allocation of funds is decided on and monitored by a "steering committee" that includes Turkish government officials. The committee itself has not heard of any such criticism. The proposals of the joint committee must be approved by the 28 EU member states because they are ultimately paying for the deal. The EU states themselves are paying 2 billion euros, while the third billion of the refugee aid fund comes from the joint EU budget in Brussels.
The aid fund for refugees from Syria and Iraq was not created specifically for the agreement with Turkey in March. The idea was brought forth by EU government leaders in October 2015, but only adopted the following year because the pressure of arriving migrants in Greece had reached a breaking point. Originally, Turkey tried to negotiate a 7 billion-euro refugee deal. At the March summit, the EU and Turkey agreed to meet again to discuss what happens beyond 2017, should the situation in Syria not improve and its 3 million refugees still reside in Turkey.
Juncker: Turkey 'not in a position' to join the EU
In an interview with the French television station France2 on Monday, the head of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, distanced himself from Turkey. After the failed coup attempt, Juncker believes the Turkish president is going too far in his "purging" of state structures and the country's state of emergency.
"I believe that Turkey, in its current state, is not in a position to become [an EU] member any time soon and not even over the long term," said Juncker, adding no immediate decisions were necessary and that the EU was only in the process of negotiating with Turkey.
Speaking to ARD, Erdogan mentioned the possibility of reintroducing capital punishment. Juncker said the EU would immediately stop all accession negotiations if Turkey were to bring back the death penalty, as a country with values so removed from Europe’s had no place in the bloc. It remains to be seen whether the EU’s cold shoulder would extend to the refugee deal and the planned funding scheme. The German government recommends that the effects of the thwarted coup and the refugee agreement be dealt with as separate matters.