Turkey is unable to cover the cost of participating in several EU-initiated programs, so Turkish universities, private companies and research institutes cannot benefit from various funding opportunities, according to a parliamentary committee document obtained by Nordic Monitor.
On Nov. 10, Foreign Ministry bureaucrats briefed lawmakers on the EU programs running in the 2021-2027 period during a meeting of a parliamentary committee, which met to assess the agreement which outlines the specific modalities for the implementation of EU financial assistance to candidate Turkey, popularly known as the IPA (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance).
Pre-accession financial assistance is provided by the EU to candidate countries in the form of a grant or a non-recourse loan. In addition to grants, there are multiple EU programs that are created on issues deemed important by the EU, open to all EU members, applicants and even non-EU countries. However, countries are required to pay contribution fees to participate in these specific programs, unlike beneficiary institutions, universities, chambers and non-governmental organizations.
Minutes of the meeting of the parliamentary committee on the reasons why Turkey did not join the EU4health programme:
Contribution fees are set by the European Commission and member states pay more according to their national income, while candidate countries are allowed to contribute less regardless of their income.
However, Bülent Özcan, director general for financial cooperation and project implementation at the European Affairs Directorate of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, told lawmakers that Turkey had decided not to participate in some of the programs, including one related to health, as contribution costs were high, saying the Ministry of Health did not deem the project feasible.
The health program Özcan was referring to was EU4Health, the EU’s ambitious health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the EU’s global health challenges. The EU will make €5.3 billion available over the next seven years to improve and promote health in the Union in order to reduce the burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. The World Health Organization has also welcomed EU4Health, which will fund strategies to reduce the fragmentation and vulnerability of medical product supply chains in Europe.
Main opposition MP and doctor Fikret Şahin asked why Turkey considers a health program that would support the production and innovation of national drugs and medical devices, considered strategic investment areas, unfeasible. and asked Özcan what the requested contribution from Turkey was.
Refusing to provide the figures, Özcan said that Turkey had not participated in several programs because Turkey had no say in determining the content of the projects and would not be involved in the management of the programs. However, he revealed that following an assessment by the Presidency’s Strategy and Budget Department, Turkey had decided not to participate. He also claimed that healthcare spending was a major budget item during the pandemic.
The claim that healthcare spending during the pandemic is a reason not to participate in the EU project contradicts the official rhetoric of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In addition to paying the participation fee in installments, Turkey boasted of providing medical supplies to many countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Italy, during the pandemic. Turkey has also donated a significant amount of Chinese-made vaccines to countries in Africa and the Middle East. Erdoğan’s office even published a book quoting President Erdoğan saying that health systems in many European countries and the United States had collapsed, people were being treated in hospital corridors, and many people in are dead.
Another MP and opposition doctor, Aylin Cesur, claimed that Turkey would miss many opportunities by not participating in such a prestigious project on health, an area in which she said Turkey was ambitious, which implies that she did not believe that the Ministry of Health was reluctant to take part.
Nordic Monitor has learned that the Ministry of Health has already organized a series of internal meetings on EU4health and informed its experts about the upcoming program. According to a presentation document prepared by the ministry, the ministry informed the European Commission through the Turkish Foreign Ministry of its intention to join the program.
Meanwhile, Özcan said that Turkey would ask the EU for 47 projects amounting to 250 million euros for the 2023 allocation. However, he added that EU financial aid to Turkey is 208.5 million euros for next year. Taking into account the aid given to Turkey since 2002, it is less than half of the annual average. Turkey has repeatedly expressed its unease with this to EU leaders.
Text of the Framework Financial Partnership Agreement between the European Commission and Turkey: