EU raises $7.5 billion for Turkey, Syria earthquake victims 


IZMIR, Turkey – The International Conference of Donors in Brussels on Monday pledged almost $7.5 billion for reconstruction for the victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey, when the death toll reached more than 50,000 in Turkey alone.

Swedish Premier Ulf Kristersson, whose country has a rotating term of the presidency of the European Union, said today that the fundraiser has achieved “its goal” by providing €6.05 billion ($6.48 billion) in grants and loans to Turkey and € 950 million ($1.018 billion). ) in grants to Syria.

One billion of the aid comes directly from the European Commission, pledged by EC President Ursula von der Leyen as she kicked off the EU-sponsored event in Brussels. “I am happy to announce that the European Commission alone will support Turkey with 1 billion euros ($1.072 billion) for the reconstruction after the earthquake. We also pledge an additional package of 108 million euros ($115.7 million) for humanitarian aid and early recovery in Syria,” von der Leyen told participants that include EU member states, UN institutions, international funding bodies, India, Japan , Azerbaijan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Six hours later, von der Leyen announced that “Team Europe” – meaning the EC, the European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – ​​had pledged 3.6 billion euros ($3.8 billion) to raise, half of the total donations. The total amount includes grants, loans or, in the case of Hungary, funding to restore a particular church. EU member Cyprus, which is not recognized by Turkey, also attended the conference and pledged 500,000 euros ($533,200) to Turkey and Syria.

Kristersson indicated that Sweden will pledge 45 million euros ($48 million) to rehabilitate and rebuild the two countries devastated by the earthquake. Ankara continues to block Sweden’s entry into NATO on the grounds that Stockholm has failed to fulfill its commitments to address Turkey’s security needs. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that his government will send a request from Sweden’s neighbor Finland for ratification to Parliament before the country’s two elections scheduled for May 14. When asked about Sweden’s NATO membership at the last press, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara was waiting for concrete steps from Sweden such as banning the fundraising, recruitment and propaganda activities of groups that consider Turkey to be terrorists.

In the press, Cavusoglu thanked the EU — and the Swedish presidency — for showing solidarity with Turkey and for helping to rebuild the country. “Turkey submitted a detailed report on the recovery and rehabilitation assessment to the donors, as well as a detailed plan of our priorities,” he said.

Erdogan, who sent a video message to the conference, also sent a rare compliment to the EU for the conference. “This shows the strength of the ties between our people,” he said, promising that Turkey would continue to facilitate land and air transfers. for humanitarian aid materials for the victims of the earthquake in Syria.

The Turkish president put the economic toll of the earthquake at around $104 billion, in line with needs assessments by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and the World Bank, which reassessed its earlier assessment of $34.2 billion.

A report prepared by the Strategy and Budget Office of the Turkish Presidency, with input from the World Bank, the UNDP and the EU, argued that the economic toll of the earthquake was 9% of Turkey’s projected GDP for 2023. this , which shows the scope of the devastation that took place in the southern provinces of Turkey, almost, almost. The path to recovery will be challenging and, even given the government’s commitment to massive state resources, will depend in part on support from the international community,” the report said, citing building houses and infrastructure as priorities and explanation that the event. the region could not be reversed without them.

“Apartment towers and village houses are in ruins over a vast territory of 110,000 square km,” says the 220-page report, referring to an area corresponding to one-seventh of Turkey or, as the Swedish prime minister said, the land of Belgium. and the Netherlands together. In addition, 3.3 million people are displaced and around 2 million live in tents and containers.

Erdogan, facing one of the toughest challenges of his 20-year rule in the upcoming elections, appears determined to shore up his damaged image with promises to “rebuild Turkey” and hopes donor funds will help to do so. His message to the conference emphasized his rebuilding plans. “We plan to provide 650,000 homes for our people — 319,000 of them within the first year. We have immediately broken ground and started the construction works in the areas where the site detection and land survey phases have been completed,” he said.

However, international donors, especially those within the EU, are alarmed by Erdogan’s promises of an immediate “fresh start”. Without the new laws, controls and strengthened watchdog institutions, the new construction could lead to a new disaster, said a European diplomat familiar with the disaster zone. “That is why some of the speakers emphasized the need for accountability and transparency while repeatedly saying the need to build better, seismic-resilient structures,” said the diplomat who d ‘requested anonymity.

Most of the donations are unlikely to come before the May 14 elections, said Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based Center for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies and a former diplomat. “Turkey and the European Union – which organized the donor conference – will draw the framework on the conditions and transparency criteria for spending the aid, and it is likely that most of the funds will be back-loaded rather than over -loaded,” he told Al-Monitor.

Due to the urgency with which the EU member states have succeeded in providing aid to Turkey and the donors’ conference, the rhetoric between Turkey and the EU members has softened, said Ulgen. “The aid of the EU, its members and other countries of the world community has made it very difficult to promote rhetoric of Turkish victimhood or create an external crisis to encourage nationalist sentiment as we approach elections.”

At the last conference, Cavusoglu said he hoped the EU’s solidarity with Turkey would continue in other areas, but made no specific reference to the stalled EU-Turkey membership negotiations or the modernization of the European Union . a shelved customs union.

Cavusoglu met his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, on the sidelines of the meeting where both agreed to support each other’s candidacy for international institutions in a new sign of warming relations. Turkey will support and vote for Greece’s bid for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council in 2025-26, and Greece will support Turkey’s bid for the general secretariat of the International Maritime Organization, Dendias said after the meeting.

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