European Parliament decides to cut IPA funds for Turkey

Johannes Hahn, the European Union Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, said the EU will cut 40 percent of the European Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) for Turkey from the portion reserved for 2018, according to a report by Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) on Thursday.

Speaking at a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday, Hahn said that “democracy and human rights in Turkey have deteriorated, distancing the country from Europe.” Emphasizing that IPA funds should be reduced and directed to “priority” areas, Hahn indicated as recipients nongovernmental organizations operating in the fields of democracy, human rights and rule of law.

The EU has allocated some 4.453 billion euros in financial assistance to Turkey to use as pre-accession aid in negotiations, covering the period from 2014 to 2020. According to DW’s report, the amount will be cut by about 253 million euros in the 2018 budget.

If there are no positive developments in these areas by the end of 2018, the planned financial aid for 2019 and 2020 will be cut by 253 million euros. Should this happen Turkey will suffer a total cut in the 2014-2020 budget of about 750 million euros.

The European Commission wants the EU Delegation to Turkey to directly manage and distribute part of the IPA assistance, the portion devoted to civil society dialogue. According to the new understanding, some of the financial assistance foreseen for infrastructure will be directed to areas that are considered “priority” by the EU, such as human rights, the rule of law and democratization.

It is the first time the European Union has cut financial assistance allocated to a candidate country during membership negotiations. As happened in 2016, when all the political groups supported a decision to temporarily suspend membership negotiations with Turkey, they also supported the European Parliament on the financial assistance cuts.

According to the DW report, some MEPs said, “The Turkish government has purchased armored vehicles with assistance money, and with these same armored vehicles have forced asylum seekers coming from Syria back to the country.”

Kati Piri, European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey, has called on the European Commission to launch an investigation into allegations that armored vehicles have been purchased with IPA money.

Some MEPs also claimed that “a large number of Syrian refugees were killed” with these vehicles. The statement prompted an answer by Hahn, who said that indeed Turkey had bought armored vehicles with IPA money for “border security” but added that these armored vehicles carried no weapons, which is why, he said, there is no evidence that asylum seekers have been killed by the vehicles.

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