By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) - Germany’s interior minister will visit Turkey next week for talks on the EU-Turkey refugee deal, the government announced on Friday.
“Minister [Horst] Seehofer will visit Turkey and Greece on Oct. 3 and 4 for talks with his Turkish and Greek counterparts on the current issues of migration,” Bjoern Grunewaelder, a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry, told a news conference in Berlin.
He applauded Turkey's hospitality toward Syrian refugees and underlined that talks with Turkish officials would focus on ways to improve the implementation of the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee agreement.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will join Seehofer during his two-day visit.
Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heavily criticized the EU member states for not fully implementing the refugee deal, and urged them to take genuine steps to share the burden of refugee crisis.
In 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel championed the EU-Turkey refugee agreement, with the hope of stopping the refugee influx, after nearly a million refugees had arrived in Germany.
The agreement has been successful in significantly reducing the number of crossings in the Aegean Sea, 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 officials.
The EU had pledged €6 billion ($6.6 billion) aid to improve living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey. But only €2.22 billion were disbursed until June 2019.
The EU member states also pledged to accept some of the Syrian refugees directly from Turkey, as part of a resettlement plan. But the statistics show that just 20,000 Syrian refugees have been accepted by the EU from Turkey, since the signing of the agreement till March 2019.
The pace of returns to Turkey from the Greek islands under the agreement has been slow largely due to lengthy legal processes and administrative problems in Greece.
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.