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26th Jan 2020

Turkish PM in Berlin to ask for more EU money

  • Turkish PM Davutoglu will argue for more help in Berlin (Photo: Consillium)

Germany will press Turkey to reduce the number of refugees coming to Europe, but Turkey wants more EU money, as Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu goes to Berlin on Friday (22 January).

The Turkish prime minister warned at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday that an EU pledge of €3 billion isn’t enough to deal with the refugee crisis.

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“Three billion euros is just to show the political will to share the burden. We will review it again and again because nobody knows how long it [the refugee crisis] will take," Davutoglu told DPA, the German press agency.

“We are not begging for money from the EU,” he said, noting that Turkey has already spent over €9 billion of its own money.

“The root cause of this refugee crisis is not Turkey or anything related to Turkey. Turkey is the country which is most affected. We are not exporting a crisis - a crisis has been exported to Turkey. Now, it has become a European crisis,” he added, referring to the wars in Iraq and Syria.

The Turkish government says nearly 3 million refugees, mostly Syrians, have come to the country.

An EU diplomat told EUobserver that Turkey, last year, asked the EU for €3 billion a year.

Davutoglu will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel, defence minister Ursula Von der Leyen, vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, interior minister Thomas de Maiziere, and development minister Gerd Mueller on Friday.

For his part, Cem Ozdemir, the leader of Germany's opposition Green party, told Die Welt, a German daily, on Friday that: “Merkel is letting [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdogan dictate the agenda.”

“The chancellor must not be blackmailed,” he said.

Merkel has come under intense pressure at home and abroad to reverse her welcome policy and to cap the number of asylum seekers.

She has not bowed so far, but, last month, she promised her CDU party to “noticeably reduce the number of refugees.”

Without closing Germany’s borders, which Merkel says would jeopardise the Schengen passport-free travel zone, her best hope is Turkey, from where almost all migrants leave for Greece - their first entry point to the EU.

Last year, EU leaders agreed to pay €3 billion for projects which help refugees to integrate in Turkish society and which improve living conditions in refugee camps, in return for keeping more people in place.

But member states can’t agree on where the money should come from and haven’t identified any projects so far.

Italy says No

Senior EU officials say the €3 billion Turkey fund is being blocked by Italy.

The current proposal is that €1 billion should come from the existing EU budget, while member states pledge the rest, based on relative wealth.

An Italian diplomat told this website Rome wants the EU budget contribution to be much bigger.

“We do, of course agree with the political decision,” the diplomat said.

“We do question if all €3 billion should come directly from the EU budget or a split of EU budget and national contributions. We’re assessing if it could be better to use the EU budget alone,” the source added.

“We’re not blocking anything. It’s not a cash fund. It’s project financing and the European Commission money is already there, so if any project arises, it can be financed immediately,” the diplomat said.

“I’m told no projects have been presented at the moment.”

Frustration

Last week, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker voiced frustration with Italy.

"I struggle to understand Italy's amazing reservation about the €3 billion to Turkey because the money is not going to Turkey but is for Syrian refugees in Turkey," Juncker told a press conference.

"These €3 billion are a question of credibility for the EU," he added.

The UK, which is to hold a referendum on EU membership amid public concern on immigration, has also voiced frustration on the EU deadlock.

“I’m disappointed and concerned that the €3 billion the EU agreed to provide Turkey … has been held up,” Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, told EUobserver on Thursday.

“The UK made an early commitment to pay its share and I'll continue to push other member states to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

Terms of reference

An EU diplomat challenged Italy’s claim the fund can already start payments.

The contact said that until Italy says Yes to the framework deal, the EU can’t agree the "terms of reference" of the financial instruments used to make disbursements.

But several states, including Britain, the Netherlands, and Sweden are firmly opposed to increasing EU spending.

Another EU diplomat said Italy is becoming increasingly obstructive on EU policy, including in areas such as fiscal prudence.

“Isn’t Italy blocking eveyrthing right now?,” the contact said.

Commission boosts Turkey fund stake to €1bn

EU member states are continuing to discuss how best to finance a Turkey fund worth the €3bn. Under pressure from EU countries, the commission proposed a contribution of €1bn from the EU budget.

Merkel and Turkish PM in show of support

Ahmet Davutoglu assured the German chancellor that Turkey would make "all possible efforts" to reduce the number of migrants entering Europe. Merkel hinted at further aid from the EU.

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