EU chief suggests shift in migration aid for Turkey

BERLIN — The head of the European Union’s executive Commission said Tuesday she will propose shifting the bloc’s financial aid for migrants in Turkey away from emergency humanitarian relief to long-term support.

The EU and Turkey agreed a deal in 2016 under which the bloc provides billions to help Syrian refugees in Turkey, and in return Ankara works to stop migrants departing its territory for Greece. Despite criticism from rights groups, the agreement is seen as a model for similar deals between the EU and North African nations.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the agreement with Turkey would be discussed at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

“In my view it’s important for us to continue to support Turkey, with its 3.7 million Syrian refugees,” she told reporters.

“Some of them have been in Turkey for ten years so that our support also goes more in the direction of socio-economic help,” Von der Leyen added. “We won’t need so much acute humanitarian help, but it’s important to us that the people have a perspective.”

She spoke after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Turkey “is doing outstanding things” to support the Syrian refugees and assurances previously made by the EU on customs cooperation with Ankara would be discussed by the bloc’s leaders this week.