Devil Demand His Due

Chancellor Merkel’s deal with Turkey is unraveling fast.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan demands €3 billion for refugees immediately, to do with it what he pleases.

The EU says the money must go through UN agencies, strictly for the benefit of refugees.

The Financial Times reports Turkey Demands EU Hand Over €3bn for Refugees.

A row has erupted between Turkey and the EU over billions of pounds in aid for Syrian refugees, casting fresh doubt on a fragile deal to halt the flow of people towards Europe.

Turkey is demanding that the EU hand over €3bn promised under the landmark agreement so that Turkish authorities can spend it as they see fit. Brussels has resisted, prompting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to accuse the 28-member union of “mocking the dignity” of the Turkish nation.

Ankara is asking Brussels to hand over €3bn — funded from the EU budget and by contributions from member states — directly to the Turkish government and its agencies. It wants to use the money to build new schools and new hospitals for the country’s 2.75m registered Syrian refugees, and to upgrade refugee camps.

The European Commission is insisting that the funds must be directed through UN agencies and international NGOs in accordance with its strict rules on aid spending. So far, €190m has been approved, with grants to organisations including the World Food Programme and International Organisation for Migration, and charities such as the Danish Refugee Council. The Commission has promised to assign a total of €1bn by the end of July.

President Erdogan this week made plain his displeasure at the dispute. Speaking on Tuesday, he said: “This country is looking after 3m refugees. What did they say? We’ll give you €3bn. Well, have they given us any of that money until now? No. They’re still stroking the ball around midfield. If you’re going to give it, just give it.”

He added: “These administrators come here, tour our camps, then ask at the same time for more projects. Are you kidding us? What projects? We have 25 camps running. You’ve seen them. There is no such thing as a project. We’ve implemented them.”

Fuat Oktay, head of Turkey’s disaster and emergency management authority (AFAD), the agency responsible for co-ordinating the country’s refugee response, told the Financial Times that officials in Brussels had proposed a compromise. It would see the likes of the World Health Organisation or Unicef working in partnership with Turkish government departments. But Dr Oktay said that Turkey rejected this suggestion. “Our approach is that they can directly work us,” he said. “Directly. That’s going to be increasing the efficiency and the effectivity of every single penny that’s going to be used and spent by the EU.”

Turkey, he insisted, knew best how to look after Syrians in the country. “We’ve been running the operations on a daily basis so we do know what their needs are,” he said. “And those needs cannot wait.” He accused European officials of being fixated on “bureaucracies, rules and procedures” and urged Brussels to find away around them.

The European Commission insists that it was made clear from the outset that most of the money must go to aid organisations. “Funding under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey supports refugees in the country,” said a spokesman. “It is funding for refugees and not funding for Turkey.”

Question of Trust

Actually, Erdogan’s reasoning makes sense, assuming he could be trusted, which he can’t. There is no trust on either side, which there shouldn’t be.

At some point in the future (as soon as Turkey gets the money it is owed (€6 Billion actually), it will demand still more money.

There is always the threat that at some point in the future, Erdogan will say “More money or I release all the refugees”.

One should not make deals with dictator blackmailers.

Meanwhile, Turkish 75-80 million Turkish citizens would have visa-free access to Europe. Among them are many millions Turks angry with Erdogan, 15 million or so Turkish Kurds, and an unknown number of potential terrorists.

As I have said before, the EU should be grateful for this opportunity to step away from Merkel’s ill-advised deal.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock