ANKARA – The European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Monday she was “very confident” the bloc would deliver a promised 3 billion euros ($3.2 bln) in assistance to Turkey to help stem migrant flows, despite the funding being blocked by Italy.
EU leaders agreed to the aid as part of a package of measures aimed at reducing the numbers of refugees heading for Europe. But Italy has objected to the grant, saying there needs to be more certainty over how it is spent.
“I am very much confident that the amount that was decided will be there in very reasonable timing,” Federica Mogherini told a news conference in Ankara after meetings with Turkish officials.
EU officials were continuing to assess the needs and projects that would receive funding, she said.
“We have to better support Turkey on the incredible work it’s doing to host and protect an enormous number of refugees. On the Turkish side … the management of the flow of refugees and also regular migrants … has to be done in a better way.”
Turkey, a candidate for membership of the EU, hosts more than 2.2 million refugees from the Syrian civil war but record numbers have used its territory over the past year to reach European borders, many attempting a treacherous sea crossing to the Greek islands.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, also part of a heavyweight delegation from Brussels, said the bloc was closely watching whether Turkish efforts to stem the flow – which have so far included issuing work permits to Syrians and visa requirements for those arriving by air – were having any effect.
The composition of refugees crossing Turkey had changed, he said, with Syrians now making up less than 40 percent. Other migrant nationalities using Turkey as a transit point into Europe include Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis.