European Union External Action

Remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival at the informal meeting of Defence Ministers

Zagreb , 04/03/2020 - 19:52, UNIQUE ID: 200304_33

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Q. What is the current situation in Syria?

The situation in Syria is one of the most dramatic human rights situation since the [Second] World War. Just imagine almost one million people being pushed to the Turkish border, which is closed, in the middle of the winter, with almost all civilians facilities being bombed and people trying to escape and looking for shelter.

We are providing as much humanitarian help as we can, the European Union has increased by €170 million the amount of resources we can provide to the United Nations. But at this time the problem is not financial but logistic, that is – how to reach the people, how to get through the border, because the Syrian side is closed, the Turkish side is still opened in some places in order to bring food, medicine and shelter. But, it is difficult to provide those things in the middle of a military conflict.

We have to call once again for a stop of the military activities in order to give some protection to these people. As far as I know, from the information I got from Ankara – I am coming from Ankara – this is one of worse cases of human distress that we have been living in the last 70 years.

Q. Is there a role for Europe’s military given the situation at the Greek/Turkish border?

Military? No, we hope not to engage militarily.

Q. Turkey is apparently not satisfied with European money anymore. So, what will be the next steps from Brussels?

We have had a lot of interesting conversations with the Turkish authorities. I have been talking with the Minister of Defence [Hulusi Akar] , Minister of Interior [Süleyman Soylu], Minister of Foreign Affairs [Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu], the Vice-President [Fuat Oktay] and later this morning, even the President of the Council [of the European Union], Charles Michel, went to Ankara and we had a meeting with President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan.

They [the Turkish authorities] believe that the support we are providing is not enough. For sure it is not enough, because when we made the agreement in 2016, the situation in Idlib was not the way it is now. But we continue providing support as much as we can and I have been telling them that to push people, to put pressure at the [EU-Turkey] border is not a solution for anyone. It is going to put people at risk and we would like to continue cooperating but not through movement of people, by making them believe that there is an opportunity to pass to Europe, because this opportunity does not exist.

Q.  Will the current migrant crisis be the focus of this meeting?

Well this meeting is not about the current crisis. It is about the future prospects on how to build a better security and defence policy for all Europeans. We are going to host tonight the Secretary General of NATO [Jens Stoltenberg] with whom we will talk about the priorities for our military and civilian missions. For sure, we are going to talk about the situation in Syria but we will have to go a bit further than the current situation, which is very worrisome. Our prospect tonight is about how to build a common security and defence policy for the future.

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