All eyes on Turkey at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels

All eyes on Turkey at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels

The EU Foreign Affairs Council is being held in Brussels with the physical presence of the Foreign Ministers of the EU Member States, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

Arriving at the Council building for the start of work, the High Representative stated that today they would have a long and busy Foreign Affairs Council (FAC). The agenda mainly includes relations with Turkey, an issue that will be discussed at the European Union Council later this week. “You know that we have been preparing a Report that was published yesterday. The Ministers will take stock of this Report in order to prepare the European Council. So Turkey is the first item on the agenda,” Borrell said.

“We also have Southern Neighborhood and Russia. The heads of the State and Government will also talk about Russia, so today I can say that Turkey and Russia are the two items on preparation of the European Union Council. But the Southern Neighborhood is not a preparation of the Council, but it is a very important issue in order to push and improve our relationship with our immediate Mediterranean neighborhood.”

He went on to add that “we are going to have a videoconference with Madame Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We are going to launch the strategic dialogue between the EU and the UN on human rights around the world, and we are going to use again the framework for sanctions against human rights violations. We will debrief you after the meeting, once the Ministers agree with the package.”

“We have got two hotspots about which we are going to talk today, Myanmar and Ethiopia. On places the situation is deteriorating and on the case of Myanmar we are going to take sanctions against 11 persons involved in the coup and on the repression of the demonstrators.”

“After the Council, I will have the opportunity to meet with the Foreign Minister of Turkey to continue discussing the Report and the decisions the Council has to take at the end of the week,” the High Representative concluded.

In her doorstep statements, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said that “I am looking forward to this meeting today with the Foreign Ministers. Especially the situation in Turkey that will be a big discussion. The shrinking of the democratic space is very worrying, especially the arbitrary detentions of politicians; the Kurdish dominating HDP party and the move to dissolve this party is very worrying. I am also very, very concerned that Turkey has decided to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, which is something that is important against domestic violence and against violence against women. I’m also looking forward for us to take new decisions when it comes to sanctions for human rights abuses and for the perpetrators in several different countries.”

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said in his arrival statement: “The Istanbul Convention is very important. I can personally remember very well 11.05.2011, in the presence of the then Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglou, and the then President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and current Turkish Foreign Minister, Mehmet Cavusoglou. Turkey was then very proud of the signing of this Convention on the Rights of Women, which is mainly aimed at combating violence against women.

It is, in my opinion, completely incomprehensible that a few days ago President Erdogan issued a presidential decree overnight, terminating this Convention in a country where every day an act of violence is recorded in a Turkish household that leads to the murder of a woman .. It is a step backwards to the Middle Ages, it is not the road we need to take to build normal relations with Turkey. We call on President Erdogan to reverse this decision. It is very important both for the image of Turkey and for the life of women in the country.”

Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok also referred to Turkey, saying “it is our important partner, but we know that we’ve been experiencing for quite some time now difficulties in our relationship. We need more answers to many pending questions as regards to the candidate status and ambitions of Turkey. As you know, the accession talks have been suspended since 2016, there are developments which we see critically in the Eastern Mediterranean. Certainly Turkey is an important partner when it comes to migration, as a country that is stemming the migration flows. So those are many important questions within the very complex agenda, certainly part of it is an attempt to explore the opportunities to start talks on the Cyprus problem.”

Gordan Grlic Radman said: “Croatia fully supports the new agenda for the Mediterranean. And second, we shall also talk about the latest developments in our relations with Russia, discuss Turkey ahead of the European Council. Turkey is our partner, EU candidate, NATO ally, and we need a constructive engagement in this regard.”

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias stated that “the report of High Representative Borrell and the Commission on Turkey will be presented to the Council today. In principle, the report is positive because it correctly identifies Turkey as a problem for the whole of Europe and also highlights the problems that Turkish behavior creates for the European Union.

Of course, there are also shortcomings like the casus belli, references to Turkish aggression, such as the wording for Varosha or direct violations of UNCLOS International Law on the Sea.

I will highlight these shortcomings in the ensuing debate in the Council. But we must keep the positive: Europe is regarding Turkey as a problem and proposing a double agenda. Positive measures on the one hand, but on the other hand it clearly includes the possibility of taking measures, sanctions against Turkey, if it slips again into its unacceptable delinquent behavior.” /ibna