EU is ready to work on a new momentum in its relationship with Turkey

The Union's strategic interest remains a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean

Photo: EU Presidents Michel, Erdogan and von der Leyen (L-R) met on 6 April in Ankara to discuss the future of EU-Turkey relations.

After their meeting in Ankara on Tuesday with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the future of EU-Turkey relations, EUCO President Charles Michel and EC President Ursula von der Leyen said that recent de-escalation must be sustained and enhanced.

The EU is ready to put a concrete and positive agenda on the table, stated President Michel, noting that “our engagement will be progressive, proportional and reversible”.

We hope Turkey will seize this window of opportunity, he also stressed.

The EU's strategic interest remains a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and a mutually beneficial and positive relationship with Turkey.

President Michel underlined as well that the EU welcomes the continuation of the bilateral exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey, and the forthcoming visit of the Greek Foreign Minister to Turkey.

On Cyprus, the EU remains committed to the relaunch of the settlement talks. “As an active observer, the EU fully supports the UN-led process and we look forward to the informal meeting that will be held in a few weeks time. In recent months, we have witnessed a de-escalation. This is a positive development, which must be sustained and enhanced,” Michel said.

EUCO President also said that the EU is by far the largest trading partner of Turkey. Economic cooperation will be envisaged in a number of areas. The European Council has invited the Commission to start preparatory work.

On the rule of law and respect of fundamental rights we shared with President Erdogan our deep worries on the latest developments in Turkey in this respect, in particular on freedom of speech, and the targeting of political parties and media, Michel emphasised adding that the promotion of women's rights and Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention have raised serious concern in Europe.

Turkey shows interest in re-engaging with the European Union in a constructive way and we have come to Turkey to give our relationship a new momentum, President von der Leyen specified.

“We had an interesting first meeting with President Erdoğan. And indeed, we discussed four areas in-depth in which the European Union and Turkey would both benefit from enhanced cooperation,” she stated.

The EU is looking into innovative ways not only to modernise the Customs Union, but also to boost public and private cooperation, with a focus on the green and the digital transitions.

The other area of enhanced cooperation are the high-level dialogues. “Topic number one should be, in a high-level dialogue, the fight against climate change. This is our common concern and we all sense by now the danger that we are facing with increasing climate change and the follow-up consequences in our countries.”

The European Commission will explore ways to strengthen cooperation on people-to-people contacts and mobility. The participation of Turkey in the European Union programmes such as for example Erasmus+ or Horizon Europe has proven very valuable in the past, von der Leyen noted.

On the fourth area of cooperation, that is concerning refugees and migration, the EC President asserted that the EU-Turkey Statement of 2016 remains valid and has brought positive results.

“This is mainly with regard to the Syrian refugees and their host communities in Turkey. But it is also true for combatting human trafficking and smuggling. Therefore, we expect Turkey to stand by its commitments and to deliver on them. This includes preventing irregular departures and “resuming return operations from the Greek islands to Turkey without any delay”.

This is for us a crucial commitment and it would be a major show of goodwill that this migration cooperation does work, she highlighted remarking that the EU on its side will continue to support refugees and host communities. “By this, we are supporting Turkey that is hosting four million refugees in living up to this challenge. Basic humanitarian needs, education and healthcare will remain priorities. But EU funding should in the future increasingly power better opportunities for refugees to earn their own livelihoods.”

She also said that the EU is aiming for an honest partnership that “enables us to strengthen what brings us closer but also to be very frank and to address what divides us”.

Today Charles Michel and I clearly underlined that respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law are crucial for the European Union and this must be an integral part of our relationship, von der Leyen accented.

 

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