As the number of Syrian refugees seeking shelter in Turkey has dramatically increased in the last couple of days, the European Union, which is facing criticism that it is not doing enough, is trying to do more to help Turkey.
In an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, humanitarian aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva praised Turkey “for the excellent job it has done” and pledged to increase the assistance the EU is providing to Turkey. Georgieva, defending Europe's record on humanitarian aid, said 320 million euros have already been allocated for Syria, and the EU is providing 50 percent of all humanitarian aid all over the globe while only having 20 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the world's economy. She called on other major and emerging powers to do more for Syria.
Click here for graphic that shows: 'ECHO's humanitarian assistance in Syria Sept./Oct. 2012'
The Bulgarian commissioner said Germany and Sweden have already agreed to accept some refugees in their own country, and the process has already started with Germany. Germany and Sweden will take, respectively, 5,000 and 2,500 Syrian refugees. Compared to hundreds of thousands of refugees, the numbers are symbolic.
According to the humanitarian aid commissioner, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “cannot avoid the unavoidable,” and it is only a matter of time for him to leave his post.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
We are very worried about the deepening of the humanitarian crisis and its spillover effect into its neighbors, including Turkey, with fighting intensifying and the winter knocking on the door. Conditions are moving from bad to terrible. We very much appreciate everything Turkey has done so far. We recognize also the need to mobilize more assistance from the EU and from everybody else. Together with Turkey, we do the most. We, as the EU, provide roughly half of all humanitarian aid to Syria both inside the country and in her neighbors; 50 percent of the aid goes inside Syria -- half goes to government-controlled areas, half goes to rebel controlled. It is also important for Turkey as we do more inside the country because we think the more we do inside, the fewer people will leave their country.
Turkey has done an excellent job
So far, Turkey has done an excellent job in keeping the borders open, providing humane conditions for people, and I am counting on Turkey playing that stabilizing role and continuing to be a safe heaven for people who seek safety on Turkish territory.
Turkey was well prepared
Forty percent of aid goes to neighboring countries. Until now, it is true that a bigger share has gone to Jordan and Lebanon, much less for Turkey. Why? Lebanon and Jordan are a lot more fragile. Turkey has been better organized from the very beginning. It anticipated the flow of refugees, and it has put in place the structures in a timely fashion.
Three things to help Turkey
We are doing three things to increase help to Turkey. We are trying to use pre-accession funds to help with the refugee situation by working very closely with Commissioner [Stefan] Füle. Secondly we are looking at our programs and how we can gear them to help the refugees. One example is our Erasmus Mondus program for education. Thirdly, we are trying to figure out how we can increase humanitarian aid directly to Turkey. Turkey deserves to be supported, and the EU is looking for ways to do more. Despite our economic difficulties, we increased the pre-accession assistance to help Turkey cope with the refugees.
Germany and Sweden to take refugees
We are the largest funder of this conflict. Despite our difficulties, our people continue to be the most generous in the crisis. In any humanitarian crisis on earth, we roughly provide 50 percent of the aid. It is not the time to poke each other in the eye. There is positive progress to take refugees into European countries. Germany has agreed to take 5,000 refugees. The process has started as we speak; Germany has already made that pledge and is already starting the receiving process. Sweden also will take 2,500 refugees. Other member states will come through.
Assad cannot avoid the unavoidable
The situation is going from bad to worse. It remains to be seen how long Assed can reign. He has no legitimacy to remain the leader of his country, this is very clear. When a leader loses his legitimacy, we see it time and again, it is only a matter of time for him to leave his post. You can slow down the process, but you cannot avoid the unavoidable. The only way is a political solution, but it is very difficult to find a way forward with the leadership that allowed so much suffering.
Rohingya people need to be helped the most
President [José Manuel] Barroso was in Myanmar recently, and he made a very strong plea on behalf of the Rohingya people. When I was there, I made the same plea. We are the strongest humanitarian aid donor in Myanmar. I talked to both Myanmar authorities and San Suu Kyi and told them that it is terrible to be poor and neglected. But it is even worse when you are poor, neglected and stateless. These are the people who need to be helped the most. I continue to follow very closely the situation in the country.