BRUSSELS/ANKARA (Reuters) – The European Union is fighting for a new deal with Turkey to prevent migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond from flowing into the EU. But so far, there are few signs that Ankara is ready to accept the conditions Brussels offers. From 2016, the agreement reduced the number of refugees entering Europe illegally via the Aegean Sea. Although the figures were much lower than in 2015, when the crisis began, Gerald Knaus, the master behind the refugee pact and president of the European Stability Initiative (ESI), sees the agreement under threat. According to Knaus, nearly 9,000 people arrived in Europe via the Aegean Sea in the first half of 2017, compared with 20,000 in the second half of the year. According to the European Commission, the number of refugees arriving in Greece via Turkey has decreased by 97% compared to the same period in the previous year. At first, the so-called refugee agreement between the EU and Turkey seemed to work rather well. The number of refugees entering the EU via Turkey, particularly greece, has decreased considerably due to the virtual closure of the border by the Turks. For the EU, the question was how the money would come together, whereas for Turkey the most important question was when the money would arrive. According to Dr Cigdem Nas, President of the Foundation for Economic Development, the main obstacle was the differences of opinion between Turkey and the EU on the use of the funds. While Turkey lobbied and mainly wanted to meet the priority needs of refugees, there were delays because EU member states` funds had to be controlled by the EU, she said. According to Yavcan, the most important thing for Syrian refugees is to learn the language and find a job. She says that currently only 20,000 Syrians have work permits and that at least 800,000 Syrians are working illegally, many of them children.
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to denounce the agreement, first because the EU has not paid the agreed amount and, secondly, because the visa exemption provided by the agreement for Turkish citizens has not been implemented. As part of the agreement, 6 billion euros in financial aid was promised to Turkey, which was to be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian refugees. According to the European Commission, 3 billion euros have already been paid to Turkey to cover the cost of education for half a million Syrian children.