Remarks by President Charles Michel after his meeting in Ankara with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

© European Union, 2020, Source: Council of the EU – Audiovisual resources© European Union, 2020, Source: Council of the EU – Audiovisual resources

Today we had frank discussions with President Erdogan on the future of EU-Turkey relations.

At our European Council meeting last month, we discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the EU’s relationship with Turkey.

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

We welcome the continuation of the bilateral exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey, and we welcome 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.

We have told President Erdogan that the EU is ready to put a concrete and positive agenda on the table, based on three pillars: economic cooperation, migration, and people-to-people contacts and mobility. Our engagement will be progressive, proportional and reversible. And we hope Turkey will seize this window of opportunity.

How do we see it concretely? 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. 

We will also consider high-level dialogues on issues of mutual concern, such as regional issues, public health, climate, and counter terrorism. And we will explore ways to strengthen cooperation on people-to-people contacts and mobility.

On migration, we appreciate Turkey’s hosting of 4 million Syrian refugees and agree that EU assistance be continued. The Commission will soon present a proposal for the financing for Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The Rule of law and respect of fundamental rights are core values of the EU. 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.

The promotion of women’s rights and Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention have raised serious concern in Europe. This morning, I had a very interesting meeting on these topics with representatives from the United Nations and UN Women. Dialogue on these issues remains an essential part of our EU-Turkey relationship.

We also discussed regional and foreign policy issues. Differences remain but new opportunities for peace and stability emerge, especially in Libya, which I visited last Sunday. We have one crucial message on this: all foreign fighters and troops must leave the Libyan territory.

The European Union has a strategic interest in developing a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey. At the same time, we are determined to defend EU and Member States’ interests and to promote our values.

We extend our hand with our progressive agenda. And it’s up to Turkey to seize this opportunity in a solid and sustainable manner. For its part, the EU is ready to walk the talk. We will assess the progress at our European Council meeting in June. Thank you.