EU grants new refugee funds to Turkey, rejects visa deal "threats"

The European Union on Thursday provided Turkey with new funding for Syrian refugees living in the country, while warning Ankara that threats to suspend a migration deal if the bloc does not grant visa concessions would have "no effect whatsoever."

The EU struck a wide-ranging agreement with Turkey in March aimed at stemming the flow of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the bloc, in return for funding refugee projects in Turkey and offering the prospect of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens visiting the bloc, among other benefits.

On Thursday, the EU announced that it would give 47 million euros (52 billion dollars) to help the Turkish coastguard with search and rescue operations targeting migrant boats, and to provide educational infrastructure, skills training and social support for Syrian refugees.

This brings the funds provided so far to almost 240 million euros out of an overall 3 billion euros pledged to Turkey under the migration deal.

But the success of the deal now depends on Ankara meeting all EU visa liberalization benchmarks. Just a handful are outstanding, but these include a demand that Turkey restrict its definition of terrorism, which critics say has been used to justify a crackdown on media and government opponents.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to budge on the issue, while warning earlier this week that the Turkish parliament could thwart the migration deal if the EU does not lift visa requirements.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday that the bloc would stick to all 72 of its visa liberalization benchmarks.

"As far as the benchmark concerning the anti-terror legislation, we do expect that Turkey will stick to its commitments," he told media in the Japanese resort of Ise-Shima ahead of this week's G7 summit.

"Threats are not the best diplomatic instrument you can use, so one should stop to use them, because they will produce no effect whatsoever," he added.

There are "clear limits to our concessions," said EU President Donald Tusk. It was always possible to negotiate about money, he noted, but "we will never compromise our values."

Last update: Thu, 26/05/2016 - 19:46

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