BERLIN, Germany Jul 26 – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused the EU of not meeting its aid commitments under a deal to send Syrian refugees back across the Aegean, but Brussels denied the charge.
Ankara and Brussels signed a controversial deal in March, in which Turkey agreed to take Syrian migrants landing on Greek islands in exchange for political and financial incentives.
The deal included billions of euros in aid, visa-free travel for Turks in Europe and accelerated talks on Turkey’s stalled bid for EU membership, but ties have been strained by Erdogan’s massive crackdown after a failed coup this month.
The EU promised to pay 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) but Erdogan said the 28-nation bloc had so far only handed over a nominal one or two million.
“The (European) governments are not honest,” Erdogan told German public television station ARD.
“Three million Syrians, or people from Iraq, are now in Turkey,” he said. “The EU has not kept its promises on the matter.”
In Brussels, the European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation European Union, rejected Erdogan’s remarks.
“The European Union is respecting its commitments and suggestions to the contrary are not true,” Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters.
He said the EU had already allocated 740 million euros and another 1.4 billion would be set aside by the end of this month, bringing the total so far to more than 2.1 billion euros.
EU officials said 105 million euros have actually been disbursed so far.
Schinas stressed that the funds were “not for Turkey but for the refugees.”
The Commission said in June it aimed to have 2 billion euros allocated by the end of the summer, with half of that handed over to aid groups.
Erdogan estimated the refugees, many of whom have fled the devastating five-year civil war in neighbouring Syria, have cost Turkey $12 billion (10.9 billion euros).
The EU made the deal with Turkey in an effort to control a huge influx of more than a million migrants who overwhelmed the bloc last year.
Late last month, Brussels said it had opened a new phase of negotiations with Turkey on its long-stalled bid for EU membership.
But that bid has been hit by Erdogan’s sweeping crackdown in the wake of the failed July 15 military takeover, which has seen thousands of people detained.
The president repeated his call for capital punishment for the plotters, an issue that has provoked an angry reaction from the EU.
Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 ahead of membership talks with Brussels that began the following year.