(Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that the European Union has failed to fulfil its pledge to provide 3 billion euros of aid for migrants, a criticism that the EU said was “not correct and not helpful”.
More than a million migrants entered the EU last year by taking boats from Turkey to Greece.
The numbers taking that route have tumbled since Turkey agreed to prevent people from setting sail from its shores in return for EU countries approving a fund of 3 billion euros this year to help Turkey improve living conditions for some 3 million Syrian migrants on its territory.
Erdogan said the EU had not honoured its side of the deal.
“The EU had said it will give 3 billion euros for the migrants,” Erdogan said at a science and technology conference in Ankara. “But time has passed and the year is coming to a close. These people promise but do not deliver.”
A spokeswoman at the European Commission rejected his comments, saying the implementation of financial support for refugees in Turkey had accelerated in recent months.
“The EU is living up to its commitments under the EU-Turkey statement,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email to Reuters. “Suggestions to the contrary, including on financial support for refugees in Turkey, are simply not correct and not helpful.”
Of the 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion), 2.24 billion had been allocated for both humanitarian and non-humanitarian assistance, an EU commission spokesperson said, adding that 1.25 billion euros had been contracted and 467 million euros disbursed.
The spokesperson said that the Commission last week signed two direct grants worth 600 million euros to support Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey, and that Turkey’s education and health ministries were going to be reimbursed for per capita costs.
Last week, the bloc launched a programme to issue monthly electronic cash grants to benefit a million refugees in Turkey, also as part of the 3 billion euro deal.
(Reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul and Julia Fioretti in Brussels; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Luke Baker and Hugh Lawson)