Objections from Italy on January 15 held up a final agreement by European Union finance ministers on how to come up with €3bn the bloc has promised to Turkey to help stem the flow of refugees into the EU, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In November last year, Ankara and Brussels agreed a €3bn deal to stem migrant flows into Europe. Turkey promised to help stem the flow of refugees, most of them from Syria, in return for cash, visa liberalisation and renewed talks in Turkey’s long-stalled accession negotiations.
All of the €3bn should come from the EU budget, rather than national governments having to put up funds, Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said, the Wall Street Journal reported. Under the current plan, €1bn would come from the EU budget, while governments would provide the remaining €2bn, according to the newspaper.
Ankara says it has already spent close to $8bn to look after more than 2.2mn Syrian refugees.
The number of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece is still too high, warned European Union vice president Frans Timmermans earlier this month during a visit to Ankara.
“Between 2,000-3,000 people are arriving in Greece every day, crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. We cannot be satisfied at this stage,” said Timmermans.
The government in Ankara plans additional measures to convince Syrian refugees to stay in Turkey. The government recently said it would offer Syrian refugees work permits.
Turkey detained about 500 illegal migrants daily last year, a total of 150,000 illegal migrants in 2015, Turkey’s EU minister Volkan Bozkir informed earlier this month.
A candidate for EU membership since 1999, Turkey began formal accession talks in 2005. Ankara has opened 15 out of 35 chapters since then, but managed to close only one.
In December, the EU and Turkey opened negotiations on Chapter 17 focusing on economic and monetary policy as part of the refugee deal. Ankara hopes to open more chapters and expects visa liberalisation to be completed sometime in 2016.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said over the weekend that Turkey still has a long way to go in its bid to become a full member of the European Union, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“The negotiations are open-ended for both sides. We have opened a new chapter in this process and new chapters are possible too. There is a long way ahead, but I see the frequent meetings as positive. I am also hoping to see progress in the Cyprus issue in the next few months,” Merkel said.
Merkel’s comments come just ahead of PM Ahmet Davutoglu’s official visit to Germany. Davutoglu will travel to Germany on January 22 for a Turkey-Germany High-Level Cooperation Council meeting.
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