On March 23rd, 2019 Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria’s vice-chancellor and party head of the right wing party FPÖ, stated that “Turkey continues to receive European tax money” and demanded on his Facebook page that EU payments towards Turkey had to stop. But is it true that the EU is still paying money to Turkey as a candidate country? The answer is yes.
Here the original claim: “The EU (Karas’ EPP and Schieder’s Socialists) rejected our request to discontinue accession negotiations with Turkey and suspended the negotiations only in time. Turkey continues to receive European tax money. We, the Freedom Party, want to make a clear line with our European partners: to completely abolish the accession negotiations and not to make payments to Turkey.”
What the EU pays
The EU pays money to Turkey, even quite a lot. In the period from 2014 to 2020 Turkey is entitled to 4.5 billion Euros according to official information on the website of the European Commission. It receives the money as part of a so-called pre-accession assistance which should help a candidate country to implement reforms towards the EU’s goals.
So far, in this period a few hundred million have been paid out. The money will go to projects strengthening civil society and the rule of law, energy projects, education and agriculture. This should facilitate adaptation to EU standards. The EU rapporteur to Turkey, Kati Piri, argued in the past that the payments should not be stopped as NGOs in Turkey would also benefit from them.
Many funds are also flowing into Turkish infrastructure projects some of which are linked to the ruling AKP party as reported by German weekly “Die Zeit”. The EU can not simply award the money to civil society groups. Turkey has a say in the use of pre-accession aid. This was criticized by the European Court of Auditors.
Irrespective of this financial assistance, Turkey receives money through the so-called 2016 Ankara Refugee Agreement. The agreement provides for EU payments to Turkey for the promise of letting fewer refugees into Europe. A total of 6 billion Euros has been set aside of which 3.2 billion Euros have already been paid.
This means that even if the accession negotiations with Turkey were to end as demanded by the FPÖ, there would be payments to Turkey. The pre-accession aid would disappear, but the refugee agreement would continue. The question is if Turkey is willing to preserve the Ankara Refugee Agreement if the pre-accession assistance were to be cut.
The FPÖ’s goal is to cut all European tax money which Turkey received due to their status as a pre-accession country. But what about the Ankara Refugee Agreement?
A spokesperson from the FPÖ confirmed that the FPÖ was in favor of the Refugee Agreement, as the party wants less refugees to come to Europe and believes into help programs on site. At the same time, the FPÖ added, that in case that Greece stops to deport refugees to Turkey, the Ankara Refugee Agreement would lose its original purpose and should be abandoned.
So FPÖ party leader Heinz-Christian Strache’s statement that Turkey continues to receive money from the EU is true. Also his statement that it is taxpayer’s money that is spent, holds true. The EU budget consists largely of certain shares of the respective member states. The calculation of these shares is based on gross national income.
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