Europe would not enjoy the same level of peace and security that it does today if it weren’t for Turkey’s willingness to host waves of refugees pouring in from numerous countries, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed.
“If European countries are living in peace today, it is thanks to Turkey for hosting 4 million refugees,” Erdogan said on Friday, as quoted by Anadolu.
In 2015, the EU agreed to pay Turkey €3 billion ($3.3 billion) in exchange for housing refugees and preventing them from entering the bloc. A year later, a formal deal was reached between Ankara and Brussels, stipulating that all migrants arriving illegally on European shores would be returned to transit country Turkey.
In exchange, the EU promised to speed up deliberations over Turkey’s bid to join the bloc. As part of the deal, Ankara requested an additional €3bn to help cope with the humanitarian crisis.
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The two sides have squabbled over exactly how many refugees Turkey hosts – and how much money Ankara needs to care for them. For example, last year the EU claimed that Turkey was holding less than 2 million refugees, while the Turkish government insisted the number was closer to 4 million.
Despite Turkey’s best efforts, in the last few years Europe has been rocked by a series of terrorist attacks, with some attributed to extremists who entered the bloc posing as asylum seekers.
While Ankara and Brussels have locked horns over issues ranging from visa-free travel to press freedoms, some European states have expressed gratitude to Turkey for its role in containing the influx of refugees trying to enter the bloc.
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“Europe’s security today begins in Turkey,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto acknowledged at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday.
More than 1 million migrants poured into Europe in 2015. Although the influx has slowed considerably,