German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reaffirmed Tuesday the EU's commitment to a refugee deal with Turkey, despite recent political disagreements between Ankara and European capitals.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin on Tuesday, Merkel said a major part of EU's promised Euros 3 billion ($3.5 billion) funding was already allocated for projects to support Syrian refugees in Turkey, but the funding had not yet been used in full.
The EU stands by its promise to make available an additional Euros 3 billion once this initial amount of Euros 3 billion has been entirely used, she said.
Her remarks came after EU's budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger called on member states last Friday to stick to their commitments under the deal, and allocate additional funds from their national budgets by the end of 2018.
Merkel has long been a key supporter of the EU-Turkey agreement clinched in March 2016, which aimed at discouraging the irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by establishing stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Although the plan has successfully reduced irregular migration flows and came as a significant relief for Merkel in domestic politics, the EU failed to timely deliver the promised funds.
As of June 2017, the EU signed contracts for 48 projects of which the total worth surpassed Euros 1.6 billion ($1.9 billion). So far, Euros 811 million ($977 million) of the pledged Euros 3 billion was disbursed.
According to the EU-Turkey agreement, European states have to mobilize an additional Euros 3 billion in funding until the end of 2018.
Turkey hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country in the world. Ankara says it has spent more than Euros 20 billion ($24.1 billion) from its own national resources for helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
Source: Anadolu Agency