EU to cut pre-accession aid to Turkey by 75 percent

The European Union has decided to cut pre-accession aid to Turkey by 75 percent, Deutsche Welle reported on Saturday citing a letter sent to the European Parliament by EU foreign affairs commissioner and seen by the Essen-based Funke Mediengruppe.

EU commissioner Josep Borrell said the cut was decided in response to Turkey's decision to stage a military operation in northeastern Syria in October last year and escalating tensions in east Mediterranean due to Turkey’s stepped-up efforts for gas drilling near Cyprus.

Turkey will now only receive €168 million ($186 million) of which €150 million ($166 million) will be spent on strengthening democracy and rule of law, DW said. The rest of the pre-accession funds for Turkey in 2019 are earmarked for rural development.

The cut in aid doesn't affect the €3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion) offered to Ankara as part of a larger 2016 deal to prevent refugees from entering into Europe through Turkey, DW said. 

The EU previously cut a total of 1.2 billion euros ($ 1.33 billion) in funds allocated to Turkey beginning from 2017.

Turkey began negotiations for full membership to the EU under the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) leadership in 2005, but the talks have slowed to a halt since 2016, when concerns over the party's democratic and human rights record arose during a two-year emergency rule that followed a failed coup attempt.

The bloc imposed last year in July a series of punitive measures for Turkey’s drilling activities off the divided island of Cyprus, which it considers illegal. The measures included a freeze to 146 million euros ($162 million) of pre-accession assistance for Turkey for 2019, the suspension of negotiations for an aviation agreement, and a review of lending to Turkey from the European Investment Bank.