European Union leaders visited Turkey on Tuesday to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdoğan received the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the head of the European Council Charles Michel in Ankara to discuss bilateral relations and seek a way forward after tensions rose high last year.
The top EU officials stated that they are ready to support a “concrete and positive agenda” with Turkey, particulary on “economic cooperation and migration”, after their meeting with the Turkish president.
Speaking after the meeting Michel underlined that they had a frank discussion with Erdoğan on the future of EU-Turkey relations.
“Our work on economic cooperation and migration will continue proportionally and gradually,” said Michel stressing on the “positive dialogue” with Turkey and the “common interests” of the EU and Turkey “on eastern Mediterranean”.
Von der Leyen said that Turkey is an “important ally” in her initial statement after meeting with Erdoğan. “Turkey is an important ally in the Customs Union. In order to increase trade, we will try to work to revise the Customs Union,” Von der Leyen said.
EU-Turkey relations had been increasingly strained in recent years with regard to territorial disputes over Turkey’s drilling operations in Aegean and Mediterranean.
Since the turn of the year, Ankara has refrained from provocations and has not sent any more ships into the natural gas-rich waters used by Cyprus and Greece.
The EU leaders’ visit to Ankara came after EU leaders have agreed to relaunch cooperation with Turkey on migration and trade at the end of the EU Summit held on 25-26 March.
Offering a possible modernisation of the Customs Union, The EU Summit also gave the signals of sanctions in the event of new tensions.
Some opposition politicians in Germany shared their critical comments on the visit taking place in Ankara.
“Erdogan wants to eliminate the opposition. He pulls out of the Istanbul Convention. Brings hundreds of thousands of innocent people into the justice system. Von der Leyen & Michel met with Erdogan today to give him gifts! This is Brussels’ self-deprecation & mockery of all of Turkey’s democrats!” said Green Party MP Cem Özdemir on a Twitter post.
#Erdogan will die Opposition ausschalten. Steigt aus der #IstanbulKonvention aus. Bringt Hunderttausende Unschuldige vor Gericht.
Von der Leyen & Michel treffen #Erdogan heute, um Geschenke zu machen. Das ist Brüsseler Selbstverzwergung & Hohn für alle Demokrat*innen der #Türkei!
— Cem Özdemir (@cem_oezdemir) April 6, 2021
“We are ready to discuss with Turkey, but we will no longer be intimidated and will reject any blackmail from President Erdogan,” said Manfred Weber, an MEP from Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, on Twitter stating that “that is the message of firmness” that he expects from the EU leaders visiting Erdoğan.
We are ready to discuss with #Turkey, but we will no longer be intimidated and will refuse any blackmail from President Erdogan. That is the message of firmness that I expect from @vonderleyen @eucopresident in Ankara today. #EastMed #Varosha #Cyprus #Frontex pic.twitter.com/aL1MJFhRx3
— Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) April 6, 2021
Emmanouil Fragkos, a Greek politician currently serving as a MEP for the Greek Solution Party shared an open letter on his Twitter, which states, “The key issue that the EU needs to raise with Turkey is the withdrawal of the illegal Turkish troops from Cyprus” along with the “issue of demilitarisation of Turkey.”
— EMMANOUIL FRAGKOS FRAGKOULIS MEP🇬🇷 (@e_fragkos) April 2, 2021