By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) - Luxembourg’s foreign minister called on the EU on Saturday to provide further financial assistance to Turkey to support projects for Syrian refugees in the country.
Jean Asselborn told German daily Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung that Turkey has been shouldering an enormous burden by hosting more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees since the eruption of civil war in Syria in 2011.
“It seems evident to me that it [Turkey] needs assistance for this. Therefore, the EU must ensure additional financial assistance to help Syrian refugees in Turkey,” he stressed, adding that EU financial assistance would be used for various projects, such as basic health care for refugees and providing education to refugee children.
As part of an EU-Turkey refugee agreement concluded in 2016, the 28-member bloc pledged €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.
The EU’s bureaucratic hurdles and delays to mobilize promised funds led to sharp criticism from Turkish politicians.
Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heavily criticized the EU member states for not fully implementing the refugee agreement, and urged them to take genuine steps to share the burden of the refugee crisis.
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.