World Bulletin / News Desk
Addressing lawmakers in Germany's parliament on Wednesday, Merkel underlined the importance of an EU decision last week to allocate an additional €3 billion in assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“We can criticize Turkey on many other issues, but what Turkey has done by providing shelter to refugees that have fled civil war in Syria, is a big contribution. And that deserves all the appreciation,” she stressed.
Amid criticism by opposition politicians, Merkel underlined that the EU’s financial aid was not transferred to Turkey’s state budget, and specifically used for projects to improve the conditions of Syrian refugees.
The chancellor also informed the lawmakers on last week’s EU leaders summit in Brussels which was focused on ways to address the refugee crisis.
“This challenge is not something one or several member states can address alone, rather this is a task for all of us,” Merkel stressed, and said the leaders reached a common understanding on the need for a closer cooperation.
She praised the success of EU-Turkey cooperation, and vowed to clinch agreements with African countries to control irregular migrant flows through the Mediterranean.
In 2016 Merkel had championed the EU-Turkey refugee agreement with the hope of stopping the refugee influx, after nearly a million refugees arrived in Germany.
The EU had pledged €6 billion ($7.44 billion) in funding for the refugees, and promised to mobilize the second €3 billion ($3.72 billion) tranche by the end of 2018.
The agreement has been successful in significantly reducing the number of crossings in the Aegean Sea, and preventing the loss of many lives.
Turkey hosts some 3.5 million Syrians, more than any other country in the world. Ankara says it has spent around $25 billion helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.