EU Commissioner promises Turkey less aid

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In principle, the EU would be prepared to provide further financial aid to support refugees in Turkey, but would attach conditions to this. Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis considers the refugee pact with Turkey “dead”.

According to EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn, possible EU payments for the care of refugees in Turkey would be significantly lower than the aid provided so far. “Many schools, kindergartens and hospitals for refugees have already been built and do not need to be financed again. The need is therefore smaller”, the Austrian told the daily newspaper “Die Welt”. At the same time Hahn attached a condition to EU payments: “We expect Ankara’s blackmailing policy to be stopped by sending refugees to the EU. Then the EU would in principle be prepared to provide further financial aid to support refugees in Turkey in the future.”

However, no decision has yet been made on this. However, several states signalled their willingness to make further payments at a meeting of EU foreign ministers this week – provided that Turkey again complies with the EU-Turkey agreement. This provides, among other things, for Ankara to take action against illegal migration towards the EU. In contrast, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared last weekend that the border with the EU was open to refugees and other migrants.

Under the refugee agreement, the EU had promised Turkey six billion euros in 2016. The money will be paid directly to aid organisations and will not flow into the Turkish budget. Erdogan is pressing for more money. Hahn now emphasized that the EU is obliged to provide “balanced financing” and must also give sufficient consideration to countries such as Lebanon or Jordan. “Both countries take in significantly more refugees than Turkey in terms of population.”

Since the beginning of the civil war in neighbouring Syria, Turkey has taken in around 3.6 million refugees in 2011. In addition, there are many refugees and other migrants from Afghanistan and other countries. Hahn also expressed the hope that the EU’s clear stance towards Erdogan and its support for Greece could be the basis for a change of attitude: “If the EU succeeds in regaining the confidence of its citizens in the efficient protection of its external borders, in other words if we once again have the sovereignty to decide for ourselves who is admitted and who is not, then a more positive attitude in this respect, in the sense of European solidarity, could develop again. It is a question of overcoming the traumatic images of 2015.

Mitsotakis: refugee pact is dead

Meanwhile Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis considers that the EU refugee pact with Turkey is no longer intact. “Honestly? For the moment the agreement is dead,” Mitsotakis said in an interview with CNN on Friday evening. “What we are dealing with is not a migration or refugee problem. It is a deliberate attempt by Turkey to use refugees and migrants as political pawns to pursue its own political interests.” Greece is not the one escalating this conflict, the head of government said. According to the pact, Turkey has an obligation to detain smugglers and prevent people from entering Greece illegally, Mitsotakis said. But: “Turkey is doing exactly the opposite. It has systematically supported people in their efforts to enter Greece.” “There were attempts to burn down our border fence and throw tear gas at our soldiers,” said the 52-year-old about the situation on the land border. He said it was completely unacceptable to be accused of not treating migrants decently in times of great need.

“Greece has shown its humanity throughout the (refugee) crisis,” said Mitsotakis. The country has opened its homes and hearts to the refugees for years. Moreover, the people who are currently trying to cross the Greek border in the east are not Syrians, the Prime Minister said. “They are not from Idlib, they have lived in Turkey for a long time, most of them speak fluent Turkish.” They would be supported by Turkey, for example by the government organizing the transfer to the border. Mitsotakis went on to say that he had repeatedly expressed his support for Turkey. “Turkey bears a heavy burden by hosting millions of refugees.” But Europe will not be blackmailed. Erdogan must understand this and stop disseminating fake news. He said there were totally false accusations about what was happening at the border. Greece has the right to protect its borders, but there is no excessive violence as propagated by Turkey.

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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