Erdoğan’s talks with top EU officials positive, says Turkish spokesperson
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged two visiting top European Union officials to take concrete steps to support the “positive agenda,” as it aims to improve relations with the bloc, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has said.
Erdoğan welcomed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council head Charles Michel at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on April 6.
“The talks took place in a generally positive atmosphere and Turkey-EU relations were discussed thoroughly at the meeting,” Kalın said in a statement late on April 6.
“Mr. President, putting forth his perspective on the future of Turkey’s relations with the EU and Turkey’s EU accession process, said the ultimate goal is full membership,” Kalın added.
“It was stated that the EU should take concrete steps to support the positive agenda in the meeting where the issues of updating the immigration agreement, the renewal of the customs union, and the granting of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, inter-public contacts and high-level political consultations were brought to the agenda,” according to the statement.
The improvement of the political, economic and social ties between Turkey and the EU will contribute both to the stability of Turkey and the European states and to sustaining global peace, the spokesperson said.
“At the meeting, it was emphasized that the refugee problem should be handled with a sense of shared responsibility and the need for urgent renewal of the immigration agreement against the instability and humanitarian crisis to be created by a new refugee wave in the region was reminded,” Kalın said, adding that cooperation in the fight against terrorism was essential to achieve permanent stability and security.
At a press conference alongside Michel, after they met Erdoğan, Leyen stressed that the visit was meant to give an impetus to Turkish-EU relations, adding that areas of mutually beneficial cooperation were covered during their meeting.
She said the EU would make a proposal to Turkey to ensure the flow of funding for refugees that the country hosts. Europe was committed to the continuity of such funding, she said, referring to the 2016 migrant deal between Ankara and Brussels.
Turkey hosts some 4 million refugees, mostly Syrian, and urges the EU to revise a 2016 deal that aimed to curb migrant flows to Europe in exchange for financial aid and other political incentives. Ankara criticizes the EU for not holding promises under the deal.
“The Commission will soon make a [funding] proposal,” von der Leyen said.
On the two sides’ intense mutual economic relations, she pointed out that the EU was Turkey’s number one export and import partner. She said Brussels and Ankara would continue to deal with the current challenges in implementing their customs union and eventually start work on updating it, referring to a 1995 trade deal between Turkey and the bloc.
After months of tensions, EU leaders last month agreed on providing more funds for refugees, as well as pledged to work on more trade, but warned of sanctions if Ankara restarted energy exploration in disputed waters.
Michel said it was positive that Ankara had de-escalated tensions with bloc member Cyprus over offshore rights and should be enhanced.
If de-escalation continued, the EU would cooperate with Ankara on improving economic ties, supporting refugees and increasing mobility, he stated.
“Our engagement will be progressive, proportional and reversible, and we hope Turkey will seize this window of opportunity,” he said.
Turkey is in dispute with EU members Greece and Greek Cyprus over energy resources and jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean, and tensions flared last year when both Turkish and Greek navy frigates escorted vessels exploring for hydrocarbons there.