Top EU officials are scheduled to hold a videoconference with Turkey’s president on Friday, the European Commission’s chief spokesperson has announced.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council head Charles Michel will be meeting via videoconference with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “to discuss an update on the issue of relations between the European Union and Turkey,” spokesman Eric Mamer told journalists at the European Commission’s daily press conference.
The talks are to be held in preparation for the EU leaders summit next week, when EU heads of state and government will discuss the future of the bloc’s relationship with Ankara.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who was tasked to draft a report on the subject, suggested on Monday the renewal “in some form” of the EU-Turkey migration deal signed in 2016 to stop irregular flows of asylum seekers to Europe and to improve the conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The agreement “has been very much criticized, but it seems that this statement has produced tangible results. It has led to a significant decrease of loss of human lives, a reduction in irregular crossing and improved the situation of refugees and migrants in Turkey,” said the EU top diplomat.
On the other hand, Ankara voiced criticism several times on the EU’s failure to deliver on its promises under the agreement.
The bloc concluded the final contracts under the €6 billion ($7.3 billion) refugee support package in December 2020.
But, the amount the EU actually spent for the needs of the Syrian refugees remains below €4.5 billion ($5.4 billion) as of March 2021, according to EU figures.
The bloc also promised to enhance political and economic cooperation with Ankara by accelerating Turkey’s EU membership talks, modernizing the EU-Turkey Customs Union and allowing visa liberalization for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area.
These steps were blocked by several member states due to bilateral problems and tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Turkey hosts nearly 4 million refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara says it has so far spent more than $40 billion from its own resources for the refugees, and underlines that the EU should do more to share the burden.
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