Turkey signs largest financial cooperation project with EU for railway construction

Turkey and the European Union have signed a $1.24-billion financial cooperation project to construct a railway line between Istanbul and the Turkish border with Bulgaria.

The head of the EU delegation to Turkey, Ambassador Christian Berger, and Turkish Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Cahit Turhan signed the agreement at a ceremony in Ankara on Tuesday. 

The new line between Halkalı, in the northwest of Istanbul, and Kapıkule on the Bulgarian border will be the fourth major railway project to be financed by the EU in Turkey. Kapıkule is also close to a remote corner of northeast Greece. 

The union will provide a grant assistance of 275 million euro ($311 million) for the project, which mill make the Halkalı-Kapıkule railway line the single largest EU investment project carried out in Turkey. 

According to the EU delegation, Turkish Railways has received the lion’s share of EU grants provided to Turkey as pre-accession financial assistance. The EU has so far supported the construction of 1,000 km of railway lines in Turkey, providing a total grant of 840 million euro ($950.5). 

The European Parliament in March called on EU leaders to formally suspend Turkey's accession talks, which were officially launched in 2005, but have effectively come to a standstill according to the European Commission

The parliament also asked the commission to use pre-accession funds earmarked for Turkey to support Turkish civil society.

The European Parliament voted last year to prevent the delivery of 70 million euros ($82 million) earmarked for Turkey. The bloc had previously placed funding to support political reforms in Turkey on hold, to be released if Ankara made “measurable sufficient improvements in the fields of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom”.

Following a train crash in December on a high speed train route between Istanbul and Ankara, which killed nine people and left 47 others injured, it was reported that the Turkish government had rushed to complete the route ahead of presidential elections in 2014, despite EU warnings over safety risks