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18th Mar 2019

Merkel: EU to cut Turkey pre-accession funds

  • Merkel said EU-Turkey deal on migrants should stay in place (Photo: European Parliament)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has said EU states will cut pre-accession funds to Turkey, but called to maintain dialogue.

Speaking after the first day of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (19 October), she said leaders had agreed to "ask the [European] Commission to reduce the pre-accession aid in a responsible way".

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  • Merkel had said during election she would seek to end Turkey's bid (Photo: CDU/Facebook)

She said Turkey was "moving away step by step from something we consider as preconditions for accession".

She added that EU assistance should instead focus on those "who want to see Turkey develop differently, for the people and citizens of Turkey".

She also said the EU should keep paying to improve the lives of the mostly Syrian refugees living in Turkish camps.

"We should stand by this obligation, because these funds go to help refugees, who are in part living in very difficult conditions," she said.

The German leader had called to end Turkey's EU bid during a TV debate in the heat of German elections last month.

She said on Thursday that there was "no majority [in the Council] to break off negotiations immediately", but that there was a "general scepticism" on Turkey's accession prospects.

She also said there was a "wish not to burn bridges" with Turkey, but instead to launch discussions, together with Ankara, on a "special partnership" or some other model for relations that would enable the two sides to "re-engage".

An EU official said on Friday that there had been "long discussions" on Turkey.

He added that leaders had "tasked the Commission to look into options how to cut and reorient pre-accession financial assistance".

Merkel spoke amid Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's mass-scale arrests of political opponents, including several EU nationals.

She also spoke after he accused her, on multiple occasions, of "Nazi practices" and said Turkey did not need the EU.

Turkey's EU talks have been on ice since 2015, but the commission had allocated it €4.5 billion in pre-accession aid over the 2014 to 2020 period.

EU leaders have also agreed to pay out €6 billion to humanitarian agencies in the country to help the living conditions of the millions of refugees stuck there after Brussels and Ankara agreed, last year, to stop them from going to Greece.

The EU leaders' formal conclusions on Thursday said little on the future of Turkey ties.

"The European Council held a debate on relations with Turkey," the text said.

It added, echoing Merkel, that the EU pledged "full commitment to our cooperation with Turkey on migration", but it noted that the numbers of people coming from Turkey to Greek islands had shown "recent increases," despite the bilateral accord.

EU summit shifts mood on Turkey amid aid cuts

EU leaders at their summit spent some three hours deliberating on relations with Turkey before asking the EU commission to come up with a plan on cutting and reorienting some €4.5 billion in pre-accession aid.

Turkey poised for first EU budget cut

"Turkey is going in a direction that is the very opposite of EU standards," Siegfried Muresan, the MEP spearheading the cuts, has said.

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