Brussels offers Turkey closer cooperation | Free press


Ankara (dpa) – The EU is looking into a possible expansion of relations with Turkey.

During a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and President of the Council Charles Michel discussed, among other things, strengthening economic cooperation. According to von der Leyens, it could include a modernization of the customs union and closer cooperation on future environmental and digital technologies.

It is about stronger cooperation that is profitable for both parties, the German CDU politician said. This also included cooperation on refugee and migration policy and the extension of cooperation under the EU research program Horizon and the Erasmus exchange program. There are still differences of opinion, but also new opportunities, says Michel. Turkish president spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Erdogan has also stressed the importance of cooperation on migration, according to the state agency Anadolu.

At the same time, von der Leyen made it clear that the EU will not hesitate to denounce negative developments in the future. She and Michel have made it clear that respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law are vital to the EU and that Turkey must comply with international human rights rules, she said. Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on the Protection of Women is very worrying and the “wrong signal”. They urge Turkey to reverse the decision. Anadolu quoted Kalin as saying that violence against women is a global problem that we will continue to fight – and against which we can also achieve success with existing laws.

The background to the talks with Erdogan was resolutions of the EU summit a week and a half ago. The Heads of State or Government had agreed with him to gradually expand relations with Turkey again. With this decision, the EU wants to prevent the escalation of further conflicts.

In terms of migration policy, and especially in the context of the migration deal concluded with Ankara in 2016, the EU is counting on Turkey as a partner to prevent refugees from continuing to travel to Europe. Last year, the dispute between Greece and Turkey over Ankara’s controversial natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean had reached a dangerous point. The EU threatened Turkey with severe sanctions in December. Ankara later ended the controversial gas exploration and indicated its willingness to talk.

Turkey had recently caused international outrage with a series of domestic political developments: the second largest opposition party, the pro-Kurdish HDP, is under threat of ban and numerous opposition politicians will be deprived of their parliamentary status. The country had also withdrawn from an international convention for the protection of women.

Against this background, the visit received critical comments from many sides. Leftist Bundestag member Sevim Dagdelen said on the occasion of the trip: “Anyone traveling to Turkey today for political discussions should visit the countless political prisoners, including dozens of Germans, in Turkey’s prisons instead of waiting on autocrat Erdogan. in the palace! Cem Özdemir also criticized the visit to Ankara as “Brussels self-dwarfism” and “a mockery of all democrats in Turkey”.

Human Rights Watch noted, “The bolder Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets, the calmer the European Union will be.” It must urgently review its approach and link visible progress on human rights issues with the start of talks on a customs union. A “positive agenda” that violates EU values ​​is not positive.

Von der Leyen and Michel, on the other hand, stressed that, in their view, the “positive agenda” does not preclude a tough course on other issues. Human rights issues are “non-negotiable,” von der Leyen said, referring to culture protector Osman Kavala and former pro-Kurdish opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas, who are imprisoned in Turkey. Turkey must implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

Kavala has been in custody since November 2017, Demirtas has been in prison since November 2016. In either case, Turkey had not implemented the ECHR’s release rulings, although as a member of the Council of Europe it is actually bound by the rulings.