BERLIN (AA) - Germany’s former president Joachim Gauck called for closer cooperation between the EU and Turkey to address common challenges, including the refugee crisis.
“In Europe, we are in a difficult position, and we require certain support from [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan,” Gauck told German press agency DPA ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Istanbul on Friday.
Gauck, who served as Germany’s president from 2012 to 2017, voiced support for the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee agreement, and backed further financial support for Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey.
“If one meets Turkey’s expectations for financial support in this field, that would be good,” he stressed.
Germany, which hosts nearly a million refugee from Syria and Iraq, has been a key supporter of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, which aimed at discouraging irregular migration and improving the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The agreement has been successful in significantly reducing illegal migration across the Aegean, and preventing the loss of many lives. But the EU’s bureaucratic hurdles and delays to mobilize promised funds led to sharp criticism by Turkish politicians.
The 28-member bloc promised €6 billion ($6.6 billion) of aid for 2016-2019 to improve living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey. But so far, only €3.71 billion were contracted and €2.57 billion disbursed.
Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.