Merkel reaffirms EU’s commitments to Turkey
Speaking at a press conference with Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Berlin, Merkel reaffirmed her support for the March 18 deal which aims to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly three million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Anadolu reported.
The agreement also allows for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area.
"I believe that the European Union must fulfill its commitments under the agreement. We assume that Turkey will also meet its obligations," Merkel said.
The chancellor's remarks came amid heavy criticism of the EU by Turkish leaders for not showing solidarity and sharing Turkey's burden in refugee crisis, despite promises made under the agreement.
Merkel acknowledged slow progress in the implementation of the agreement; however, she expressed readiness to address such concerns.
"I believe that Europe is a reliable contractual partner, and so is Turkey. We still have some more work to do together," Merkel said.
Turkey is currently hosting some 3 million refugees, mostly from the neighboring Syria.
While the EU has promised to provide funds for improving the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Turkish officials are criticizing Brussels for delays in the mobilization of these funds.
The EU has failed to deliver a promised 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid that has been pledged for the refugees.
Turkey will also receive an additional 3 billion euros, agreed upon in a refugee deal with the EU, throughout the next two years until 2018, the then PM Ahmet Davutoglu said in March.
However, Turkey has so far received only 677 million euros ($716 million).
Turkey is hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world, and has so far spent more than $12 billion on the refugees.
Ankara is also criticizing the EU for not honoring its promises to relocate some of the Syrian refugees from Turkey.
So far, only 1,614 Syrian refugees have been resettled from Turkey to Europe while 578 irregular migrants have been returned from the Greek islands to Turkey, according to the European Commission.
Europe had agreed to take 72,000.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had championed the refugee deal, with the hope of stopping irregular migration through the Aegean Sea.
There has been a significant drop in illegal crossings since the agreement came into force.
Germany also has seen a sharp decline in refugee numbers, helping Merkel to address the increasing domestic pressure over the migrant crisis.
Last year, Merkel pursued an open door policy for refugees despite widespread criticism and the country received a record 890,000 refugees.