Bulgaria’s Cabinet agreed on March 16 2016 to ask the National Assembly to ratify a contribution of 5.9 million euro over three years towards three billion euro EU assistance to Turkey arising from an October 2015 deal with Ankara on control of migration flows.
The October deal envisaged Turkey taking back migrants in return for accelerating visa liberalisation and giving new impetus to Turkey’s EU accession talks.
The Bulgarian Cabinet decision came on the eve of a two-day European Council meeting set to see intense discussions on a provisional agreement with Turkey, reached on March 7 2016, that would enable Greece to return migrants to Turkey while on a “one-to-one” basis, Turkey would be able to send Syrian migrants into the EU.
On this deal, Turkey has demanded six billion euro from the EU to deal with the migrant crisis and wants action on accelerating EU membership negotiations. The provisional deal has been highly controversial, with human rights groups questioning its legality, and with concerns about the EU making deals with Turkey in spite of Ankara’s worsening human rights record.
The Bulgarian Cabinet said in a March 16 statement that after Parliament ratifies the 5.9 million euro contribution, Bulgaria will send the European Commission a signed certificate on its contributions, along with a schedule of payments for the 2016/19 period. The government said that Bulgaria’s contribution was based on the country’s gross national income as a proportion of the EU’s GNI.
The statement noted that the mechanism for Turkey regarding refugees was established to co-ordinate actions financed from the EU budget and contributions bilaterally from EU member states. The total amount of aid under the mechanism was three billion euro, of which one billion euro would come from the EU budget while the rest would be provided by contributions from EU member states to the facility.
The funds are intended to finance urgent humanitarian needs of refugees and host communities in Turkey – mainly for the provision of food, health services and education. They will be granted to Turkey under the relevant EU programmes, mainly through humanitarian assistance and the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance.
At the same March 16 meeting, Bulgaria’s Cabinet approved the country’s position for the European Council meeting on March 17 and 18. Bulgaria will be represented at the meeting by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov.
The position said that Bulgaria agrees to more decisive influence on Turkey to enable maximum implementation of the EU-Turkey action plan and an effective reduction in the flow of migrants to the EU border.
The document added that fulfillment of Turkey’s commitments to return and readmission is a basic condition for progress on visa liberalisation.
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(Photo: Ben Melrose/V Photo Agency)