EU's Support for Turkey "Discriminates"

Swedish Radio News has found widespread irregularities, including fraud and discrimination, in the European Union financial support for applicant member Turkey. The aid is simply not reaching the rural areas and minority groups as planned, according to the investigative report.

This comes as an especially troublesome for a Sweden openly supporting Turkish membership in the EU - despite the open opposition from some EU members such as France and Germany.

Over 7 billion U.S. dollars have been sent to Turkey from Sweden and the other European Union members to help it make the necessary reforms to qualify for EU membership - ear-marking some of the funds for such groups as poor peasants in the countryside, Kurds and other minority groups facing hostile discrimination, women and child laborers.

But Swedish Radio news interviews with people all over Turkey reveal that the EU funding is not reaching such people.

Kuryakos Ergün, chairman of a famous monastery near the city of Midya insists that there are many needy in his region, and that he is both sad and angry that there is so much money not available for his people. He says that discrimination and harassment are devastating the populations of ethnic minorities in his city.

Levent Korkut is the head of a central Turkish organization helping non-government voluntary organizations apply for EU funding, but that many mayors in southeast Turkey insist that they are not getting any money because they are Kurds, Asyrians or other minorities.

Some EU administrators place some of the blame on Turkish reality - concluding that many groups are not familiar with setting up NGO's or co-operatives necessary for applying for funds, and that the money set aside by the Turkish government for rural funds 2 years ago still can't be distributed yet since no local offices have been set up to receive the applications - even though time is running out before unused funds have to be returned.

The Swedish bureau chief of EU development funds for the Western Balkans and Turkey, Yngve Engström insists that the EU administration has sufficient controls on how EU funding is spent.

Some critics here in Sweden maintain that the center-right Swedish government talks about supporting Turkey's EU membership, but doesn't do enough to smooth the troubled Turkey membership negotiations – not even during the last 6 months when Sweden had the EU presidency.

Swedish parliamentarian from the opposition Social Democratic Party and chair of the Swedish support committee for human rights in Turkey, Anne Ludvigsson, says Sweden needs to pressure to Turkish authorities more to respect the human rights and the EU should work harder to ensure that the money go to the regions it is meant for. Ludvisgsson also calls for simplifying the complicated, multi-paged applications preventing many from even applying.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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