EU Mulls Billions in Migration Funds for Turkey as Tensions Ease

The European Union is mulling offering billions of euros in additional financing to support Turkey for hosting refugees, adding to signs that tensions between Ankara and Brussels are easing.

The European Commission is proposing that 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) from the EU’s budget until 2024 be dedicated to “health services and education, social protection, skills development and the creation of job opportunities,” for Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey, according to a copy of an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.

That commitment would be on top of 535 million euros in bridge funding to Turkey to continue key humanitarian projects until early 2022, according to the document.

EU leaders will discuss the informal proposal during a two-day summit in Brussels that begins on Thursday. Leaders will signal their willingness to “enhance cooperation” with Turkey and examine the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union, according to a draft of their joint communique seen by Bloomberg.

The tone of the documents is a far cry from last year’s gatherings, when EU foreign ministers decided sanctions against Turkish officials over Ankara’s maritime claims in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the time, leaders threatened additional punitive measures in response to a standoff between Turkey and Greece.

The EU has been walking a tightrope for months, as it seeks to show solidarity with its members Greece and Cyprus without burning bridges with an important economic partner and strategic North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally. The bloc also relies on Turkey to stem the movement of migrants from the Middle East toward the continent, a key consideration for most European governments.

Migration will be a key topic in the agenda of Thursday’s summit of EU leaders, and the Commission will propose a total of 5.7 billion euros in financing for refugees and host communities in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, according to the memo seen by Bloomberg. Governments across the bloc are eager to strike as many agreements with countries of origin and transit, offering money and other incentives to take their citizens back.

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