Wednesday

20th Jan 2021

Turkey fund: EU states want Commission to pay more

  • EU Council chief Donald Tusk with Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels last month (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU Commission is under pressure to give more money for the €3 billion destined for Turkey to help stem the flow of migrants and refugees, while some member states are reluctant to send money to Ankara for political reasons.

EU members agreed in November to provide €3 billion over two years to support Turkey in creating better conditions in refugee camps, to help them integrate in Turkish society, and to stop them from going to Europe.

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But there is no agreement on how the fund is to be put together.

“It is not clear yet, where the money will come from,” an EU official told EUobserver.

The commission offered to give €500 million from the EU budget and said member states should add €2.5 billion.

Pressure

But some member states are putting pressure on the commission to increase its share, while others, such as Cyprus, are reluctant to contribute for political reasons, sources say.

Member states’ ambassadors will discuss the Turkey fund in Brussels on Wednesday (9 December). A meeting of finance ministers on Tuesday showed that most of them are ready to contribute, but want to pay less, and want the commission to increase its €500 million of seed money.

It is equally undecided how the fund should be established.

The commissionhas proposed three options, one of which involves going through the EU budget. But member states who are net contributors to the EU treasury want to ensure this doesn’t end up increasing the budget ceiling, when talks on 2014-to-2020 spending come up next year.

The second option - to take money from existing EU programmes - is unpopular with eastern European member states, net beneficiaries, who want to make sure EU funds for underdeveloped regions don’t suffer.

The third option is to set a up a new trust fund outside the EU budget. But some capitals are also wary of creating novel financial instruments.

“Nobody’s jumping up enthusiastically to give money. But the principle decision has been taken, so we will [do it],” said an EU official.

For governments under increasing political pressure from the huge number of refugees, solving the method of payment is urgent.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, the finance minister of Germany, the refugees’ principal destination, underlined the urgency at a breakfast meeting with his colleagues in the EU capital on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, conditionality is a further concern, with member states keen to ensure the money really goes to refugees instead of being gobbled up by Ankara.

EU summit

If the Turkey money does flow through the EU budget, via existing programmes, oversight procedures are already in place.

If there is a novel instrument, these conditions need to be hammered out. One idea is for the funds to be disbursed to international organisations, such as the UN, and to NGOs, as well as to projects drawn up by the Turkish government.

Some sources said the issue might come up at the EU summit next week.

The draft conclusions, circulated by the EU Council on Monday, say leaders pledge to “ensure proper follow-up to the … EU-Turkey meeting,” last month, which agreed the €3 billion.

The EU sources indicated that member states’ experts might draw up detailed options ahead of the leaders’ meeting. The summit would make a political decision on the model, leaving bureaucrats to handle the nitty gritty in the weeks to come.

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