A much-vaunted deal between the European Union and Turkey to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean is in doubt as Turkey has suddenly demanded a far higher sum of money in return for doing more to prevent migrants crossing its borders. Ankara has said it now wants €5 billion rather than the previously agreed €3 billion.
As European leaders faced mounting criticism from their own citizens for allowing unlimited numbers of migrants to enter Europe, they in turn pressurised Turkey to do more to stop people from leaving its shores. By late November a deal had been struck between the EU and the Eurasian state: Turkey would do more to enforce its borders and improve conditions for Syrian refugees within its country; in turn the EU would hand over €3 billion to help cover the costs.
Negotiations over the figure were fierce – Turkey demanded €3 billion a year; the EU countered by promising that sum over two years, to be paid out piecemeal as conditions are met, leaving the final sum vague. To sweeten the deal, they also promised to look again at Turkey joining the EU.
Breitbart predicted at the time that the deal “won’t work, and which will have serious long term consequences – primarily the accession of Turkey to the EU.” Rather, allowing Turkey’s 75 million citizens rights of free movement across the continent will instead “intensify” the migrant crisis.
By early January the deal was already beginning to crumble as European leaders furiously criticised Turkey for not doing enough to reduce the migrant flow numbers landing on Greek soil resolutely maintained an average of 3,000 per day.
Now Turkey has struck back, demanding substantially more money to do the job. “Ankara wants to have €5 billion, but we are only willing to give the promised €3 billion,” a senior EU diplomat has told Die Welt.
The Turkish government also want more of a say in how the money is spent, kicking back at EU insistence on overseeing the disbursement of funds. “The Turkish government is having a very hard time accepting that the billions of euros in aid for refugees are to be paid out step-by-step and after strict checks by the EU,” the diplomat continued.
However, EU sources are insisting that strict oversight be in place as they fear money will leach into the Turkish system rather than being of benefit to Syrian refugees. In particular, they want to see the money spent on schools and better infrastructure.
Yet no money has actually been handed over yet, as the member states cannot agree on whether the money should come from the EU budget or from member states – and how much each country should contribute.
Italy has so far refused to hand over any money, insisting that it already bears a disproportionate burden in the crisis as it has had to process hundreds of thousands of migrants landing on its shores.
During a visit to Berlin on Friday the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said his government was not against the payment in principle, but wanted clarification on payments.
“We have not changed our minds, but we are waiting for our friends in the European Commission and the European Union to answer some questions, which I think are about details, and I hope they can be clarified soon, I hope before the London conference,” he explained, referring to the Syria Donors Conference to be held in the British capital on February 4.