EU members reportedly agree on €3bn refugee aid to Turkey

By bne IntelliNews November 13, 2015

The members of the European Union agreed in a recent summit to provide a €3bn worth aid to Turkey to build camps for Syrian refugees, Financial Times reported on November 12. The forthcoming deal is also expected to include EU-wide visas for Turkish citizens and reviving stalled accession talks, FT quoted unnamed EU officials as saying. The EU plans another summit to finalize the refugee plan in late November or early December, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to attend the summit. The EU countries will provide the €2.5bn worth part of total €3bn aid in line with their GDPs and the remaining €500mn will be supplied from the EU budget.

Turkey hosts more than 2mn refugees from Syria and it has spent close to $8bn to look after them. Ankara has been discussing measures with the EU on how to solve the refugee crisis. Refugee crisis and Russia’s recent active involvement in Syria problem helped Turkish government regain its importance for its Western allies. Recent acceleration in the relations between Turkey and the EU, and also Obama’s warming call before G20 summit show that AKP government carries the chance to regain its popularity and support from the EU and the US after it recovered its single-party majority on November 1 snap elections. US President Barack Obama called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before G20 summit which will be held in Turkish city Antalya on November 15-16 under Turkish government’s presidency, media reports suggested on November 10.

Europe is so desperate for Turkey’s help in stemming the flow of refugees across its borders that German Chancellor Angela Merkel ignored criticism to visit Istanbul and offered to push forward Turkey’s dormant accession talks and speed up visa-free travel to the EU for Turks in return.

The European Commission (EC) released on November 10 its annual progress report on Turkey’s European Union (EU) candidacy. The report emphasized an overall negative trend in the respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, as widely expected, however, the Union also praised Turkish government’s unprecedented humanitarian aid and support to refugees from Syria and Iraq. The EU was heavily criticized by the opposition for delaying the release of Turkey’s annual progress report before Turkey’s crucial November 1 snap elections in exchange to Turkish government’s co-operation on refugee problem. The EU denied that it delayed the release of the report with political intensions and said that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker decides when the progression reports for the candidate countries will be released. Reuters has leaked on October 28 the details of a copy of the draft annual progress report on Turkey's EU candidacy, citing unnamed sources.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on November 5 that it found that the inflow of refugees, who overwhelmingly do not have work permits, results in a displacement of informal, low educated, mostly female Turkish workers, primarily in agriculture. As low-income Turkish workers drop out of the formal labour force, the average wage recorded in the formal sector seems to rise, the Bank said.

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