EU, Turkey ‘Committed’ to 2016 Migrant Deal, Erdogan’s Talks in Brussels ‘Fruitful’
The EU will keep its political dialog wih Erdogan open, the EU leadership has vowed.
Both the European Union and Turkey have expressed a commitment to preserving the 2016 migrant deal during Monday’s “fruitful” visit of Turkish President Recep Erdogan in Brussels for a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Under the 2016 accord, formally known as the EU-Turkey Statement & Action Plan, Turkey accepted to curb “irregular migration” into the European Union in exchange for financial aid and some trade and travel benefits.
On February 28, following a debacle in Syria’s Idlib province where Turkish forces and allies have been clashing with the military of Syrian Russia-backed President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey said it would no longer prevent migrants from reaching the EU, leading to a migrant buildup and standoffs on the border with Greece.
Speaking at a news conference together with European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Von der Leyen in Brussels after the two met with Turkish leader Erdogan, said that both the EU and Turkey were committed to preserving the EU-Turkey agreement. Erdogan himself did not speak to reporters after the meeting.
“Migrants need support, Greece needs support, but also Turkey needs support,” the European Commission head stated, as cited by DW.
“This involves finding a path towards agreement… [our meeting was mainly about clarifying] how both sides see the past and how we evaluate the EU-Turkey statement … to find common ground on where things are missing and where things are successful,” she elaborated.
“Any use of excessive force is unacceptable and any action of the authorities has to be proportionate,” the EC President said regarding the situation on the Greek – Turkish border.
“European borders have to be respected, and the fundamental rights — for example, the right to ask for asylum — have to be respected, too. Both go hand-in-hand,” she said.
European Council President Michel said the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and his Turkish counterpart Melvut Cavusoglu were going to work with a team to evaluate how the 2016 pact was being implemented.
“It’s important to implement this statement between the European Union and Turkey. That mean’s everybody has to fulfill their own commitments,” Michel told a press conference in Brussels.
“That’s the case for the European Union, and we have explained how we plan to support the refugees. And it’s also important that [Turkey’s obligations have] to be fulfilled,” he emphasized.
“And we will keep political dialog going with Erdogan,” Michel added.
Michel and Von der Leyen’s meeting with Erdogan was behind closed doors and lasted 1.5 hours, with Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu also present.
As Erdogan himself offered no comments, unnamed sources from the Turkish Presidency were quoted by Turkey’s official Anadolu agency as saying that the meeting in Brussels had been “fruitful.”
Turkey currently hosts over 3.7 million Syrians, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.
Upon greeting Michel, Erdogan did not shake hands with, and then patted his chest with his hand and said “corona” making it clear the handshake was avoided because of the coronavirus.
Earlier on Monday, during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Erdogan demanded more support from Turkey’s NATO allies over the situation on the Turkish – Syrian border.
Last week, the EU foreign ministers declined to boost financial aid to Turkey and some even accused the Turkish leader of a “cynical use” of the migrants, while Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared the 2016 migrant deal “dead”.
Speaking in Brussels, however, Erdogan lambasted the Greek government, which has already been given 700 million euros by Brussels to secure Greece’s borders and cope with the new arrivals.
“It is irrational and inconsiderate that an ally and a neighbouring country point to Turkey as responsible for the irregular migration,” Erdogan said.
“We will not allow this country to try to get unfair gains by using its current position,” added the Turkish leader who recently ordered the Turkish coastguard to stop the migrant boats from reaching the Greek islands in the Aegean.
(Banne image: Video grab from Charles Michel’s Twitter account)