Turkey seeks more EU funds for refugees’ upkeep

A Syrian refugee mother puts her baby into a stroller in Nizip refugee camp, near the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep province, Turkey. (Reuters/File)
Short Url
Updated 15 December 2019

Turkey seeks more EU funds for refugees’ upkeep

  • EU funds support the roughly 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey

ISTANBUL: The EU should spend more than the €6 billion ($6.6 billion) already allotted to fund Syrian refugees in Turkey, and speed up the flow of that money, the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s EU point person said on Saturday.

EU funds support the roughly 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, after Syria’s more-than eight-year war killed hundreds of thousands and pushed millions from their homes. In turn, Turkey has agreed to halt further immigration to Europe.

“The flow of funds should be sped up and the amount of funding should be increased,” said Faruk Kaymakci, a deputy Turkish minister of foreign affairs.

“As long as the crisis is there we have to work together. The €6 billion will not solve the problem when it is finally all spent,” Kaymakci told reporters in Istanbul.

The EU, which set up the funding in 2015, says more than €5.6 billion have been allocated, more than 3.5 billion contracted and more than 2.4 billion disbursed.

Kaymakci said hosting the refugees costs Turkey some $40 billion in total.

Europe’s relations with Turkey are strained on several fronts including disagreement over a Turkish military incursion in October against a Kurdish militia in northeast Syria.

Turkey in late October threatened to “open the gates” to allow refugees into Europe unless Europeans back its plan to resettle them in northeast Syria.


Former Lebanese FM Gebran Bassil comes under fire at Davos panel

Updated 8 min 18 sec ago

Former Lebanese FM Gebran Bassil comes under fire at Davos panel

  • Bassil, who has been the target of protesters' anger, was speaking on a panel named “The return of Arab Unrest”
  • CNBC's Hadley Gamble, who moderated the discussion, put pressure on Bassil over his comments on governance

DAVOS: Lebanon’s new government needs to win the confidence of the parliament, the confidence of the people, and the confidence of the international community, former Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday.

In a much-anticipated panel discussion plagued by controversy and uncertainty since its announcement, Bassil appeared despite a social media campaign and petition calling for his invitation to be rescinded. 

He said the country was in its current position because of 30 years of “wrong policies.”

“The responsibility of the Lebanese government is to take the challenge of changing and reforming the system,” he said. “What is happening now in the streets is very positive because it is creating a dynamic for change.”

Joining Bassil for the discussion — “The return of Arab Unrest” — were Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag and Damac Properties chairman Hussein Sajwani. 

Kaag spoke of the importance of Lebanon as a “regional public good in a volatile region” saying the country has “so much to offer.” However, she added, “It is so painful to see a model of consensual democracy turn away to provide a disservice.

“One should not need wasta,” she continued, referring to the Arabic word for influence and/or bribery. “Wasta is a total sign of poverty, whereby only if you have means, access, and influence, you are someone.”

Gebran Bassil, a hate figure for Lebanese protesters, was grilled by Hadley Gamble during a Davos panel. (WEF)

Panel moderator, CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble, did not hold back when questioning the former foreign minister, repeatedly reminding him of his infamous quote at Davos last year, when he said, “Washington and London should maybe learn from Lebanon how to run a country without a budget.”

Bassil’s spokesperson May Khreish had earlier accused Gamble of being part of “a Zionist campaign against Bassil's participation in the conference.”

“We have a malfunctioning system because of confessionalism. What the young people are calling for in the streets is a secular system whereby citizens are equal,” Bassil said.

He also expressed his hope that Lebanon’s current crisis could be resolved in-house. “Let the people of the region decide what they want,” he said. “Don’t dictate to them foreign recipes. Let the international community help not dictate.

“Lebanon is still a democracy — we have a high level of freedom and they are encouraged to keep this force of change, and when they decide we don’t represent them anymore, we step aside,” he continued, referring to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government resigning a few weeks after the start of the protests in October 2019.

Damac boss Sajwani suggested that the general public in the region did not treat democracy with appropriate gravitas. “The challenge we have in the Middle East is that people are not being professional when it comes to elections,” he said. “They are going by emotions and religion, which is totally unacceptable.”

Kaag praised the determination and persistence of Lebanon's youth. “The specter of possible civil war will not work anymore (as a deterrent for protests),” she said.

Lebanon’s new coalition government was formed on Tuesday after almost 100 days of widespread public protests about the state of the economy, corruption, high unemployment and a lack of basic services. The majority of its 20 ministers are aligned with Hezbollah and its allies.