EU slashes Turkey’s pre-accession funds by $124m

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has led calls for a cut in funds to Turkey. (AP)
Updated 19 November 2017
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EU slashes Turkey’s pre-accession funds by $124m

ANKARA: After several calls from German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a cut to the EU’s pre-accession assistance to Turkey, the bloc announced on Saturday a significant decrease in its funds for Turkey under the EU’s 2018 budget deal.

The reason cited is the bloc’s doubts over Turkey’s deteriorating situation in terms of democracy, rule of law and human rights, core criteria for EU membership.
Although it still needs to be formally approved by the EU Council and the European Parliament, the decision is considered a new blow to Turkey’s accession process, which has been frozen for years.
The reduction is about €105 million ($124 million), along with an agreement to freeze an extra €70 million of previously announced spending.
Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan, the lead rapporteur for the EU’s 2018 budget, said the decision intends to send a clear message that the money the bloc provides “can’t come without strings attached.”
Out of €4.45 billion committed by the EU for Turkey during the period 2014-2020, only €360 million have been distributed so far.
“Talking about cutting pre-accession assistance decreases the EU’s credibility,” Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said last month.
He added that pausing or cutting negotiations with Turkey would be “suicide” for the bloc.
Turkey applied for membership in 1987 and became eligible in 1997, thereby getting the green light for starting accession talks in 2005.
The refugee deal between Turkey and the EU in March 2016, aimed at managing irregular migration to Europe via the Aegean Sea, created a temporary honeymoon in relations, but accession talks are currently deadlocked.
Some measures Ankara took under the state of emergency following last year’s failed coup attempt are considered undemocratic by the EU.
“This decision (to cut funds) is hardly surprising,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, told Arab News.
“Taking action against Turkey’s democratic setback was being discussed in EU circles for a long time, and targeted cutting of Instrument for Precession Funds was the likely first move,” he said.
“Germany had also been pushing for such a decision since announcing it would take measures against Turkey,” Unluhisarcikli added.
“The symbolic significance of this decision is very important, as this is the first step backward in Turkey’s integration process to the EU since accession negotiations were launched in 2005.”
Unluhisarcikli said Turkey is entering a slippery slope in its relations with the EU and the US.
“Turkey’s accession is a long-term project already heavily invested in by both Turkey and the EU,” he added.
“Both parties should refrain from taking steps that would endanger the project... Turkey shouldn’t be pushed into a path that leads away from the West.”
Gul Gunver Turan, president of the Turkey-EU Association in Istanbul, said something has to be done without totally severing relations with Turkey.
“And the only tool left was cutting down allocated funds, which anyway were only used by a small amount,” Turan told Arab News.


Oil mixed on tighter US outlook

Updated 21 August 2018
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Oil mixed on tighter US outlook

  • Traders said US markets were lifted by a tightening outlook for fuel markets in the coming months
  • The Iran supply cut may also be more than compensated for by production increases outside OPEC

SINGAPORE: Oil prices were mixed on Tuesday, with US fuel markets seen to be tightening while the Sino-US trade dispute dragged on international crude contracts.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for September delivery were up 27 cents, or 0.4 percent, at 0306 GMT, at $66.70 per barrel. The contract expires on Tuesday.
The more active October futures were up 7 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $65.49 a barrel.
Traders said US markets were lifted by a tightening outlook for fuel markets in the coming months.
Inventories in the United States for refined products such as diesel and heating oil for this time of year are at their lowest in four years.
This is occurring just ahead of the peak demand period for these fuels, with diesel needed for tractors to harvest crops and the arrival of colder weather during the Northern Hemisphere autumn raising consumption of heating oil.
Outside the United States, Brent crude oil futures were somewhat weaker, trading at $72.18 per barrel, down 3 cents from their last close.
This followed the United States offering on Monday 11 million barrels of crude from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) for delivery from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30.
The released oil could offset expected supply shortfalls from US sanctions against Iran, which will target its oil industry from November.
Because of the sanctions, French bank BNP Paribas said it expected oil production from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which Iran is a member, to fall from an average of 32.1 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 to 31.7 million bpd in 2019.
Still, traders said overall market sentiment was cautious because of concerns over the demand outlook amid the trade dispute between the United States and China.
A Chinese trade delegation is due in Washington this week to resolve the dispute, but US President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview on Monday he does not expect much progress, and that resolving the trade dispute with China will “take time.”
The impact of the Iran sanctions is not yet clear.
China has indicated that it will continue to buy Iranian oil despite the US sanctions.
The Iran supply cut may also be more than compensated for by production increases outside OPEC.
BNP Paribas said non-OPEC output would likely grow by 2 million bpd in 2018 and by 1.9 million bpd next year.
“Depending on when pipeline infrastructure constraints are lifted in the US, non-OPEC supply growth by the end of 2019 may prove higher than currently assumed,” the bank said.
The search for new oil has increased globally in the last two years, with the worldwide rig count rising from 1,013 at the end of July 2016 to 1,664 in August 2018, according to energy services firm Baker Hughes.
The biggest increase was in North America, where the rig count shot up from 491 to 1,057 in the last two years.
How prices develop will also depend on demand.
“We see global oil demand growing by 1.4 million barrels per day in both 2018 and 2019,” BNP Paribas said, implying that global markets are likely to remain sufficiently supplied.