EU officials, Turkish ministers discuss refugee aid

Turkey hosts top EU officials in capital Ankara in order to discuss various issues including aid to refugees, Turkey’s EU accession process

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish ministers hold a political dialogue meeting with high-ranking EU officials in the Turkish capital Ankara on Jan. 25, 2016.

Turkey has been hosting top European Union officials in its capital Ankara in order to discuss various issues, with a primary focus on the refugee assistance and Turkey’s EU accession process.

Following a high-level meeting with Turkey's EU Minister Volkan Bozkir and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Federica Mogherini, who is the High Representative of the EU on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has announced that the 28-nation bloc needs to support Turkish efforts regarding Syrian refugees in a press conference on Monday.

The European Union's foreign policy chief said that she was "very confident" the bloc would deliver a promised 3 billion euros ($3.2 bln) in assistance to Turkey to help stem the refugee flow, despite the funding being recently blocked by Italy.

EU leaders agreed to the aid as part of a package of measures aimed at reducing the number of refugees heading for Europe. But Italy has objected to the grant, saying there needs to be more certainty over how it is spent.

"I am very much confident that the amount that was decided will be there in very reasonable timing," Mogherini stated.

Cavusoglu underlined that any delay of the aid by the EU will poorly affect daily lives of Syrian refugees living in Turkey. 

EU officials were continuing to assess the projects that would receive funding, she indicated.

"We have to better support Turkey on the incredible work it's doing to host and protect an enormous number of refugees. On the Turkish side ... the management of the flow of refugees and also regular migrants ... has to be done in a better way," she added.

Syrian refugees escaping the violence in their country fled Syria in large numbers following the escalation of the Syrian Civil War in 2012.

One of their most preferred destinations was neighbouring Turkey, which hosts more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, the most in the world according to registration records of the United Nations.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, also part of the heavyweight delegation from Brussels, said the bloc was closely watching whether Turkish efforts will stem the flow  - which have so far included issuing work permits to Syrians and visa requirements for those arriving by air - were having any effect.

The composition of refugees crossing into Turkey had changed, he said, with Syrians now making up less than 40 percent.

Turkey is a transit point for refugees aiming to reach European countries from Syria and Iraq because of its geography bridging the Middle East and Europe.

Thousands of mostly Syrian refugees last summer marched towards western European countries using a route through Greece-Macedonia-Serbia-Hungary-Austria from east to west, triggering a huge refugee crisis in the continent.

Now other refugees from different countries are using Turkey as a transit point into Europe, these include Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis according to Hahn.

Turkey has reportedly spent more than a record of $8 billion of its own resources on the refugees.

The Syrian civil war has claimed more than 260,000 lives and turned the country into the world's largest source of refugees and displaced persons.

Later President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will receive the EU delegation at his presidential palace according to the official program of the delegation.

TRTWorld and agencies