Johannes Hahn said European leaders should be “confident” that the refugee chaos is now under control thanks to the bloc’s controversial deal with Ankara’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The EU Commissioner, who is responsible for Turkey’s accession talks, called on Brussels to provide more cash so that Mr Erdogan’s hardline government can house Europe-bound migrants.
He said that he had noted during recent visits to the Eastern Anatolia province that about half of Syrians he had spoken to wanted to stay in Turkey, whilst the other half wanted to return home.
However, since then the number of sea arrivals to Italy has rocketed as asylum seekers attempt the longer and more perilous Mediterranean crossing from Libya.
Figures released by the UNCHR show that the numbers of migrant arriving by sea in Greece have stabilized at around 495 per week – down from 8,000 in March.
However, sea arrivals to Italy spiked at 8,157 for the week of the 18 to the 24 of July, although officials insist that once averaged out numbers have remained broadly consistent with 2015.
“Europe should also say this with confidence. Now it is important that we help Turkey to carry the financial burden of the three million refugees.”
The Austrian politician also insisted that the deal with Turkey – under which all migrants arriving in Greece are returned back across the sea – has not been thrown into jeopardy following the failed coup attempt in the country and President Erdogan’s subsequent crackdown.
But asked whether he still felt Turkey should be in line to become an EU member in the light of numerous human rights and democratic abuses, he admitted: “This is a legitimate question that I often ask myself, if not every day.
“But whether I like this emotionally and personally or not, I am obliged to see to it that what we have agreed on is being implemented.”
He added: ”And if there is even the slightest doubt that this is not being done correctly, the consequences will be unavoidable.”
Europe has been in the grip of an unprecedented migrant crisis which has seen well over a million people flock to the continent over the last 18 months.
UNCHR figures show that more than 250,000 people have arrived by sea in 2016 – well up on the million people recorded last year.