Turkey highly reliable partner of EU, Germany's Merkel says

Turkey is a "highly reliable partner" of the European Union in addressing the refugee crisis, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

Deputy government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer talked at a news conference in Berlin and expressed Germany's commitment to a 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal that effectively stopped the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe.

"The EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 is our joint success, and it is in the mutual interest of the EU and Turkey," according to Demmer who said the EU and Turkey are determined to continue its implementation.

She praised Turkey for hosting nearly 4 million refugees who escaped a civil war in neighboring Syria – providing essential services, housing, health and educational support.

"What Turkey is doing deserves high recognition," she said.

Demmer said the EU's financial support for Syrian refugees has improved their living conditions and the agreement has been successful in stemming irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and it has saved the lives of refugees.

Merkel championed the refugee agreement, with hopes of stopping the refugee influx after nearly 1 million refugees arrived in Germany.

The agreement has been successful in significantly reducing the number of crossings in the Aegean Sea, and preventing lives lost. But the EU's bureaucratic hurdles and delays in mobilizing promised funds led to sharp criticism by Turkish officials.

In 2016, the EU promised to deliver 6 billion euros ($7.1 billion) by the end of 2018 to help Turkey care for nearly 2.6 million refugees. After a nearly two-year delay, the EU concluded the final contracts under the 6-billion-euro package in December 2020. But the amount the bloc spent for Syrian refugees remains below 4.5 billion euros as of March, according to EU figures.

The remaining amount is expected to be disbursed in the coming months as part of recently contracted projects.

Turkey currently hosts nearly 4 million Syrians, making it the world's top refuge-hosting country. Ankara is also providing protection and humanitarian assistance to nearly 6 million Syrians in northern Syria. Turkey has spent more than $40 billion from its resources on refugees, and officials underline that the EU should do more to equitably share the burden. /AA