NEWS

EU, Turkey seeking to keep lines of communication open on migration

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“The lines of communication with Turkey remain open and active,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said following a meeting in Brussels on Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which ended without an agreement on the way forward following Turkish moves to encourage thousands of migrants and refugees to push through the Greek border into the European Union.

“Migrants need support, Greece needs support, but also Turkey needs support. And this involves finding a path forward with Turkey,” she told reporters after Erdogan left the nearly 2-hour meeting without comment. “Clearly we do have our disagreements. But we have spoken plainly, and we have spoken openly to each other about these. It was a good conversation, it was a good dialogue and it was a constructive one.”

Despite the upbeat tone, von der Leyen said that the discussion “focused on mapping the areas on which we can work, both in the EU’s interest and in Turkey’s interest.”

Turkey is demanding more financial help from Brussels to deal with over 3 million refugees it is currently hosting, as well as visa-free travel to the bloc for Turkish citizens.

“A lot goes back to the EU-Turkey Statement of 2016, which remains valid. And we discussed today how to implement the missing pieces. To map it again, to analyze it, to find a common understanding of what is missing and what is already in place and then to implement the missing elements,” von der Leyen said.

“We have expressed very clearly to President Erdogan our commitment to move forward on these issues, provided that this is reciprocal,” she added, saying that the talks were “a good starting point.”

Earlier, Erdogan had met with European Council President Charles Michel, where differences over the 2016 migration deal were also discussed.

“We decided to task Josep Borrell, the high representative, with his counterpart in Turkey, the minister of foreign affairs, each of them with a team, to work in the next days in order to clarify the implementation of the deal between Turkey and the European Union. This is to be certain that we are on the same page, that we have the same interpretation about what we do in Turkey at the level of the European Union in order to implement the deal,” he said.