The deal signed between Ankara and Brussels in March 2016 to crack down on human trafficking over the Aegean is hanging in the balance as several countries are reportedly refusing to pay for it, insisting that the European Commission cover the next tranche of 3 billion euros in funding pledged to Turkey.
According to Germany’s Der Spiegel, officials from Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Finland expressed their opposition to contributing further funds in a letter to the Commission which was rejected by its president Jean-Claude Juncker. A German official warned that money would only be disbursed if Ankara presses on with the agreed-to infrastructure works.
A potential collapse of the deal would be a major blow to Greece, which in 2016 bore the brunt of hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking to travel to Europe.
Although arrivals from Turkey to the islands of the eastern Aegean are a fraction of those at the peak of the crisis, they have picked up in recent weeks.
Reception centers on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos remain cramped. The installation of 170 containers at the state-run reception facility for migrants near the village of Moria on Lesvos has helped improve the living conditions on the island but continuing arrivals from Turkey mean overcrowding remains a problem.
Tensions have been rising between Turkey and Greece over the migration crisis as well as other issues including the prolonged detention of two Greek soldiers in Edirne.
However, after days of acrimonious exchanges between the two countries, government officials appeared to question the wisdom of further upping the ante with Turkey. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on Tuesday for an end to the trading of verbal attacks, urging Ankara to make a gesture of goodwill by expediting the release of the two soldiers who “are unfairly being held.”
Tsipras had also raised the issue last week in a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently hosting visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a time when Moscow and Ankara – both at odds with the West – are seeking to further deepen relations.