Where did the six billion promised by Europe to Turkey go?

(B2) Between Ankara and Brussels the cloth burns as soon as we talk about big money. Everyone has a different interpretation of the agreement reached in March 2016 in order to support Turkey's (real) effort to welcome (and keep) Syrian refugees at home. Facts, figures

A UNHCR educator with a group of Syrian children. (UNHCR)

The agreement between the European Union and Turkey, concluded at the summit in March 2016, provides for double funding: three billion euros immediately, another three billion by 2018 (see box). That's six billion in all...

How much money has been committed?

The European Commission recognizes this: today only 4,7 billion euros (out of 6 billion €) have been committed. Only two thirds of this money (3,2 billion euros) has actually been disbursed and committed on the ground. In concrete terms, of the first tranche of €3 billion, almost €2,5 billion have been paid. And for the second tranche of 3 billion, we reach just 760 million €.

When will the remaining money arrive?

The European Commission assures that the bar of 4 billion € disbursed will be reached by the end of 2020. But for the remaining 2 billion €, it will be little by little. For each project, the European Commission pays a part in advance to the partner with whom the contract was signed. This should make it possible to launch the project. But then, payments are made as the project progresses. However, some projects will continue until 2025.

Is the commitment kept?

No, say the Turks. Yes, the Europeans. On the Commission side, we repeat to anyone who will listen that the commitments and the schedule have been kept. The promised six billion are currently all “ engaged we assure you. In other words " the money is reserved”, since projects have already been chosen for all six billion. In practice, contracts have been signed with partners for a total of 4,7 billion. For the remaining 1,3, corresponding mainly to the second tranche, the contracts should be concluded by the summer.

Wasn't the money supposed to be paid before 2018?

Timing is the key point of disagreement between Europeans and Turks. As the 2016 agreement does not go into detail, everyone interprets it differently. Turkey considers that the commitment was that the money should arrive within the period mentioned. Namely: 3 billion in 2016 and 3 billion before the end of 2018. For Europeans, this is a completely different interpretation. Admittedly, it is planned that the Facility for Refugees in Turkey will have a budget of 3 billion euros for 2016-2017 and 3 billion euros for 2018-2019. But the commitment was that " operational projects must be initiated no later than December 31, 2019 and be the subject of contracts no later than December 31, 2020. »

Why is it so slow?

When you put the question to the European Commission, you really have to listen carefully to hear the answer. Often we hear a barely whispered chirping: the contracts must be concluded. The reality is harsher, as confirmed by an expert on the subject: " it's slow ! ". You have to choose the organization, sign a contract, have it call for tenders, check that everything is in order, make sure that the expenses are indeed eligible, etc. All of this takes time. Especially since the UN agencies do not shine by their speed either. The two administrations added together often produce a net lengthening of the delays. " The miracle of European bureaucracy » quipped one of our sources.

For which projects is the community money used?

Basic aid, health, education and socio-economic integration are at the heart of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. One of the flagship projects is the emergency social assistance plan, carried out in the field by the World Food Program (WFP). It made it possible to distribute a fixed monthly allowance (approximately 30 euros per person/month) to more than 1,3 million refugees, by distributing debit cards (with a chip). This allows them to withdraw this money or pay directly in stores. Very useful

Many projects, especially in the second tranche, are intended to strengthen Turkish infrastructure in the face of its overuse. It is above all at the municipal level that projects are carried out, for the construction of educational or medical centres, the contracting of additional staff, or even the construction and rehabilitation of water supply and wastewater treatment systems.

There are also projects aimed at strengthen the operational capacities of the Turkish Coast Guard in the management of migratory flows in the Mediterranean Sea », under the leadership of the World Organization for Migration (IOM).

NB: see the list of Turkey Facility-funded projects (February 2020).

Through whom passes Community money?

In a large majority of cases, the recipients of the Facility are UN agencies or Member States, as well as NGOs. The World Food Program received a total of 1,4 billion for various projects. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has been chosen for four projects, with a total value of around 90 million euros. Médecins du Monde has contracts for 19 million euros. As for the French Development Agency (AFD), it is working on water supply systems, with a loan budget of 160 million euros.

In three cases, especially in the fields of education or health, the projects financed are carried out by Turkish ministers. Thus, two contracts were signed with the Ministry of Education, in the first then in the second tranche, for 300 then 400 million euros. With the Ministry of Health, a single contract of 300 million was signed (in the first tranche), to allow access to mental care for 1 million refugees.

In proportion, the sums which pass directly through the coffers of the Turkish state are derisory. However (this is a real point of contention), Ankara hoped to receive more or less directly the 6 billion euros to compensate for the cost of the refugees. However, on the European side, we intended to go through the usual operators of the European Union in humanitarian matters, and not really through Turkish operators. " This is not direct budget support “, specifies to B2 an expert of the file.

(Leonor Hubaut, with Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)


Joint declaration between EU and Turkey of 18 March 2016 – point 6

“The EU, in close cooperation with Turkey, will further accelerate the disbursement of 3 billion euros initially allocated under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and will provide funding for new projects in favor of persons under temporary protection identified with a rapid contribution from Turkey before the end of March. A first list of concrete projects in favor of refugees, in particular in the field of health, education, infrastructure, food and other living costs, which can be quickly financed by the facility, will be drawn up together within one week. Once these resources are close to being fully utilized, and provided that the above commitments are respected, the EU will mobilize a additional funding of 3 billion euros for ease until the end of 2018. »


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Leonor Hubaut

© B2 - Bruxelles2 is a French online media that focuses on political Europe (powers, defence, foreign policy, internal security). It follows and analyzes developments in European policy, unvarnished and without concessions. Approved by the CPPAP. Member of SPIIL. Please quote "B2" or "Bruxelles2" in case of recovery Leonor Hubaut is a journalist. Graduated in international relations from the Free University of Brussels (specialization in globalization). She covers for B2 the work of the European Parliament, CSDP missions and African issues. Sahel specialist.