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New €700 million humanitarian aid package to help solve refugee crisis

The European Commission will release €700 million in humanitarian aid over three years, most of which will go to Greece, European, Turkish and US media widely report. Part of this aid package will go to other countries like Bulgaria and Croatia, notes Les Echos.

This unprecedented move – providing humanitarian assistance to a member state – has yet to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament, but the EC hopes to release the funds in the coming weeks, Les Echos reports. According to the French newspaper, the move is recognition that Greece is inevitably turning into an open-air refugee camp for tens of thousands of people. Greece is turning into a large Calais-style refugee camp, Jean-Dominique Merchet further writes in an editorial in L’Opinion.

The EC now speaks openly of a “humanitarian crisis” on European soil, Europe 1’s Brussels-based correspondent Isabelle Ory stresses. “It’s unheard of, to the point that a new EU law will be required to release these funds; up to now, helping an EU member state was not provided for by the rules,” she adds. “The number of refugees keeps growing, as well as their humanitarian needs;” Europe must act “decisively and immediately,” Commissioner Christos Stylianides is quoted by sources such as Les Echos and Bild.de.

Putting it more bluntly, an EU official told Les Echos that the aim was “to avoid making Greece the new Lebanon.” UNHCR Europe Bureau Director Vincent Cochetel said that the funds should be enough in the short term, but Greece also needs the European relocation programme to work properly, as well as the launch of procedures to send illegal immigrants back to Turkey, Les Echos reports. If the EU fails to act quickly to address the refugee chaos in Greece, the flow of asylum-seekers will simply head to other countries, such as Albania and Bulgaria, warned Vincent Cochetel, speaking with Svenska Dagbladet´s Gunilla von Hall.

Ankara took a first step yesterday by accepting back 308 people, an effort which should be saluted by the EU ahead of Monday’s summit with Turkey on, which is also beginning to attract media attention. The EC, NRC Next reports, has indeed confirmed that Turkey has started taking back migrants with no hope of asylum from Greece. Although the number of migrants is still low, this development is viewed as an important first step in the cooperation with Turkey, the Dutch newspaper notes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel actually is currently working out the details of her plan for European cooperation with Turkey, but is apparently prepared to unilaterally accept refugees from the country if necessary, Die Zeit notes. While the recent EU summit showed that European heads of state and government support Ms Merkel´s plan on paper, doubts are increasing. Some fear that Turkey will exploit its leverage on Europe, and some of Germany´s most important allies in the European Union, such as France, Spain and Italy, have abandoned it in the refugee crisis, the German newspaper highlights. In an article entitled “Merkel and Tsipras, intertwined fates,” Le Monde notes that, as other European leaders have yielded to popular pressure, the only one left to support Angela Merkel’s welcoming attitude is the European Commission.

For her plan to work – the relocation of refugees across the whole of Europe, an agreement with Turkey, the strengthening of the EU’s external borders – Angela Merkel needs Alexis Tsipras to hold on, to pursue the implementation of hotspots, and to prevent the situation in Greece from turning into chaos. As a result, Angela Merkel is trying to whip up strong political support for Tsipras, as well as significant logistical and financial support. What is more, during the upcoming EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, PvdA leader Diederik Samsom wants Dutch Prime Minister Rutte to present his plan to propose an airlift between Turkey and Europe to bring a minimum of 400 migrants to Europe daily, reports De Volkskrant.

European Council President Donald Tusk is expected to hear about the Turkish positions during his upcoming visit to Turkey (as part of his Balkans tour), Cypriot media note – a visit garnering media attention in Europe, notably in Greece.

 

 

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