Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Brussels on a double mission. On the one hand there was his meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, where he received the support from the alliance on Idlib. On the other hand, he went to meet with the EU leadership and submit his requests, so that the Union institutions could discuss them in the near future and the updating or revision of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement on the Refugee-Migration issue could begin immediately.
The meeting in Brussels was attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, while on the EU side there was European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen.
After wrapping up the one-hour-long meeting, Michel and Von der Leyen gave a press conference stating that the two sides had reached an agreement to set up a technical political dialogue group led by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The task of the panel will be to study the EU-Turkey Joint Statement in order to clarify the different interpretations of its implementation and identify the points that have not been implemented, as well as the failures and omissions in all relevant provisions.
Charles Michel in his remarks noted that it was important that views were exchanged on the EU-Turkey relations and the implementation of the 2016 Joint Statement. “We shared our differing views on the implementation of the Statement” and “we clarified a number of positions (different interpretations) in the Agreement”.
As he explained, the EU side updated the amounts disbursed and committed to refugee programs stressing that the security of the region, especially in Syria, was also discussed, with the European leaders conveying their concerns regarding the humanitarian aspect of the crisis in Idlib and the border with Syria.
At that point he informed on the establishment of the technical team that would work in order for both sides to get on the same page in terms of how they understood the Statement.
He also noted that he would be briefing the Member States on the outcome of the meeting. Concluding his remarks, he stressed that the EU would keep the political dialogue with Erdogan going, that today’s meeting was the first important step in the right direction and that “we will move further forward in the future”.
For her part, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen noted that it was important that the communication channels remained open and active, pointing that this was a prerequisite for improving the situation of migrants in Evros.
In addition, she stressed that Greece was in need of support, but also Turkey itself needs support to manage the migration issue, noting that today’s dialogue was constructive and led to a mapping; she added that the 2016 Statement remains timely and now both sides would look into what was missing and how they would implement it.
She went on to say that the EU expressed its willingness to proceed with the implementation of the Statement only if it worked both ways with Turkey. The details of the agreement will be reviewed for all the 2016 forecasts.
Finally, to a question regarding the operational situation at the border with Greece, she reiterated that any excessive violence was unacceptable; every decision made by the authorities should be proportional; the borders must be protected and the right to apply for asylum must be respected, explaining that those two go hand in hand. /ibna