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Turkish migrant deal sparks EU funding issues

By Patrick Higgins  |  25/01/2018 15:25


EU member states want Commission to pay in full

The EU's migrant deal with Turkey, long propogated as the solution for stemming the waves of migrants trying to reach Europe, has come under heavy pressure as technocrats in Brussels argue over who will take charge of the next round of payments.

The deal, initially signed back in 2016, was originally allocated 3 billion euros by EU member states, but many EU states such as Germany and the Netherlands are pushing for the EU Commission to supply in totality the next tranche of payment. Such payment disputes highlight the continuing tensions between the international budgets of the EU technocrats in Brussels and national budgets of various EU countries. Many EU countries such as France, led by the centrist Macron, are pushing forward with further EU integration, whereas other members such as Hungary are resisting. Many of these integration issues stem directly from the migrant crisis, underlining the importance of maintaining the resettlement deal with Turkey.

Tensions with Ankara

Ankara, however, has its own set of complaints. Most of the funds under the deal are earmarked for NGOs and Turkish migrant agencies. The funds are designated for use under the umbrella of humanitarian aid, including the refurbishment of health care centres, work development programmes, and quality Arabic education. None of this money goes directly to the Turkish government, something that Ankara considers unacceptable and a violation of its sovereignty.

Contextual decline in EU-Turkish relations

Besides the issue of how the continuation of funding for the deal will move forward, further tensions between the EU and Turkey exist and make any renegotiation or further cooperation quite tricky. Turkey conducted a highly controversial political referendum last year to increase President Erdogan’s powers and has repeatedly clashed with the EU over the political course Turkey has chosen to undertake since the infamous July 2016 coup attempt. Such developments include the arrests of prominent Turkish academics, journalists, and politicians, as well as a clampdown on free speech, free assembly, and secularism. Besides the apparent declines in societal cohesion, Erdogan's government further infuriated the EU by attempting to campaign in Germany and the Netherlands in support of the referendum last year. Both Germany and the Netherlands have vast populations of expatriate and ethnic Turks. When refused permission by the German and Dutch authorities, Erdogan lashed out against them, referring to them as the "Nazis" of Western Europe. Such choice of words has contributed heavily to the dramatic decline of relations between Turkey and the EU. Thus, the intensity of the clashes between Germany and the Netherlands with the Commission over the method of tranche payments is of no surprise, as they are reluctant to supply any form of financial aid to Turkey or its environs.

Despite its opposition, the ability of Germany to successfully pressure the Commission to foot the bill while still lacking a formal government is questionable. One can, however, expect the number of migrants trying to reach Europe through Turkey to continue to decline while the terms of the deal are still maintained.

Pathway moving forward

Ankara, while quite vocal over their issues with the deal, likewise wants the flow of migrants passing through Turkey to stop. If Turkey moves to scrap the deal entirely, there would be nothing stopping the flow of migrants through Turkey to reach Europe. Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, Turkey has accepted over 3.5 million Syrian refugees and claims it has spent over 30 billion euros towards caring for them. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the Turkish government to stay consistent with the terms of the deal, despite disagreements with the EU over the method and speed of tranche payments. Likewise, the EU, which has experienced an influx of 2.5 million people seeking asylum within the past three years, does not want more migrants and will continue to work with Turkey despite the enormous tensions, both socially and politically.



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