Aid to help Turkey get ready for EU accession has limited impact, say auditors

14 Mar 18

European Union funding to help Turkey prepare itself for EU membership has had only a “limited effect”, auditors have found.

Between 2007 and 2020, the EU will have devoted over €9bn to Turkey in pre-accession assistance to help it start to comply with the bloc’s laws. Of this, €3.8bn has been focused to priority areas of rule of law, governance and human resources (education, employment and social policies), which are in need of reform.

Looking at these priority areas, the European Court of Auditors found the assistance had been well designed but the funding did not sufficiently address some of Turkey’s fundamental needs.

“From 2018 onwards, the commission should better target funding for Turkey in areas where reforms are overdue and necessary for credible progress towards EU accession,” said Bettina Jakobsen, the ECA member responsible for the report.

In areas where there was sufficient political will, like customs, employment and taxation, the bloc’s assistance had helped Turkey align with EU law. However, the auditors warned these results might not be sustainable and there was a risk of “backsliding on reforms”.

It also found the programme was “significantly delayed”, leading to the reduction in both funding and the time available for the Turkish authorities to implement projects. Weak administrative capacity in Turkish ministries and high staff turnover compounded problems, the ECA said.

Auditors also highlighted that the funds spent had barely addressed a number of fundamental needs in Turkey, such as the independence and impartiality of the judicial system, the fight against high-level corruption and organised crime, press freedom, the prevention of conflict of interest, and the reinforcement of external audit and civil society.

These findings will feed into the commission’s mid-term review of funding, as well as into the design of future assistance programmes, the ECA’s report said.

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