An official website of the European Union. See all European Institutions
Brussels, 25 July 2017
Check against delivery!
It is a pleasure for me, together with Commissioner [for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes] Hahn, to welcome Foreign Minister [Mevlüt] Çavuşoğlu and [Ömer] Çelik [Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator] to Brussels for this High Level Political Dialogue with Turkey. It is an essential element of our framework of dialogue and cooperation, as we reconfirmed during our last exchange with the Foreign Ministers of the 28 Member States of the European Union in Malta, last April.
Following the meeting that Presidents [Jean-Claude] Juncker [of the European Commission], [Donald] Tusk [of the European Council] and [Antonio] Tajani [of the European Parliament] had with President [of Turkey, Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan last May, here in Brussels, we have continued to work together in the last months. We have decided to engage in frank, open and constructive conversations in various fields of our cooperation.
We held a Political Directors' meeting in Brussels in June, four Commissioners [Christos Stylianides, Johannes Hahn, Violeta Bulc and Phil Hogan] visited Turkey in the past few weeks, while several Turkish Ministers visited Brussels in the same period of time.
I have on many occasions stressed the need to hold these exchanges, to listen and to talk to each other directly on all the shared interests and common challenges that the people of Turkey and of the European Union attach importance to. We often have said to each other what is important is discussing things directly in these dialogues more than talking about each other with the media and this is exactly what we are doing: engaging in an open, frank, constructive dialogue.
Today our discussions were held just a few days after Turkey held its first commemoration of last year's attempted coup which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians and left more than 2,000 people injured. We reiterated the European Union's solidarity with all the Turkish people and with all the democratically elected institutions.
The meeting today provided us the opportunity to discuss issues very high on both of our agendas in a very comprehensive manner. We spent many hours together. And this, of course, includes elements that are fundamental to our relationship and the aspirations of the people of Turkey and the European Union. In this respect, the rule of law, the right to a fair trial, due process, the freedom of expression and assembly, good neighbourly relations are key principles that Turkey has committed to not only as a candidate country but also as a member of the Council of Europe.
We have witnessed a worrying pattern of imprisonments of a large number of members of the democratic opposition, journalists and human rights defenders in Turkey.
This is why today - as we have consistently done in the past - we stressed that our cooperation and dialogue need to be sustained by concrete, positive steps in the areas of rule of law and fundamental freedoms, as well as in bilateral relations with each of the European Union Member States.
We also discussed how to enhance our cooperation in many fields in a constructive manner. Commissioner Hahn will cover some of this work and in particular for sure the aspects more related to the work of the [European] Commission. But we discussed our cooperation in the fields of energy, security, countering terrorism, migration management, our continued support to Turkey in its efforts in hosting a huge number of Syrian refugees, economic and trade relations, but also transport and agriculture - all fields where a positive agenda can be set up and is being set up in our bilateral relations.
And, of course, also foreign affairs. We have a certain number of common priorities on which work has always been shared at our level and I would like to thank Minister Çavuşoğlu for this. Our contacts have been constant, especially on Syria, where our work to support the process in Geneva and to help the process in Astana delivering results on the ground has been coordinated.
We also exchanged views on the Gulf crisis. We were both coming back from Kuwait and we discussed the need to have the fastest possible solution to these tensions. We also discussed the situation in Iraq after the liberation of Mosul. The work in Libya as General [Khalifa] Haftar and Prime Minister [Fayez Mustafa al-] Serraj meet in Paris, we reaffirm the need to bring the parties together in the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement and to work together to accompany the unity of the Libyan stakeholders.
We shared views on the situation in Jerusalem, in the West Bank and in Gaza, reaffirming our strong believe that the two-state solution is the only viable option and the need to have a special attention to the situation in Jerusalem in these days, hoping that the Israeli authorities and the Jordanian ones will also work closely together to guarantee a sustainable context in Jerusalem in these hours.
We also exchanged views on our relations with Iran. In particular, I thanked Turkey for the continuous support to the implementation of the nuclear deal [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and we also discussed our respective relations to Russia and our positions on the crisis in Ukraine, but also our support to the Ukrainian reform process.
This wide range of areas of cooperation in the field of foreign and regional policy is a clear reflection of our many shared interests and common challenges and of our willingness to continue to work with Turkey - a secure, economically vibrant and democratic Turkey. And today, we discussed precisely how we can collectively take our work forward to the benefit of all our citizens.
So, I would like to thank my colleagues Mevlüt and Ömer for an excellent dialogue we've had. Points of disagreement persist but also a lot of common field of work that we will continue in the months to come.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I142146
Q. Did you hear anything today that would serve to ease your concerns at the very severe erosion of the rule of law in Turkey will be reversed? In your assessment, are the conditions right for new chapters to be opened in the accession talks or indeed for the discussion around the upgrade of the Customs Union to proceed?
Dialogue is important first of all to listen but also to present positions and to understand which are the points that are top priorities for both.
Many of our colleagues focus more on the red lines, I prefer to focus on what we have in common, and I think the dialogue today was helpful for sure in one respect which is that we identified common priorities on which we can usefully work together and this is not to be underestimated. Because our agenda is complex and we need to work together in a cooperative matter with Turkey, with others, this is the European approach.
In this respect, as both myself and Commissioner Hahn have made very clear, also with you; we have raised what is very important for us, which is not so much to hear during our dialogues but to see concrete steps in the fields of rule of law, human rights, democracy, media freedom, the protection of human rights defenders, opposition leaders and so on and so forth.
So, I would tend to focus more on the actions that we expect rather than on the words that we can exchange. But the dialogue was – as you can see - very open but also very productive. As you journalists would define it: "frank and constructive", but positive I think.
When it comes to the perspectives, I would like to stress on one side what my friend Ömer, what Minister Çelik mentioned, clearly Turkey is and stays a candidate country. We live a little bit of the paradox that one or two years ago, I remember very well the first High Level Political Dialogue we had in Ankara at that time – with me at least – we were saying we have to not only consider our relationship in the framework of the candidate status but we also have to develop the strategic partnership. Now we are a little bit on the other side; we have to remember ourselves that Turkey is also a candidate country.
Turkey is at the same time a candidate country and a strategic partner for the European Union with fields for positive cooperative common work, and fields where we are facing difficult or different opinions and different positions.
Having said that, it is not only for the Cyprus issue, that was unfortunately not solved during negotiations this month under the UN auspices; but I can say that I was present in Switzerland during the beginning of the last phase of negotiations and I have hopefully tried to accompany the process in the best positive manner. Unfortunately, distances were too big to be bridged this time but we remain hopeful that a solution to the Cyprus issue can be found at a certain moment.
But it is not only the Cyprus issue that makes it difficult in this moment to imagine the opening of further chapters.
Q. The attempted coup in Turkey: we have just marked the anniversary of the coup. In terms of looking at the political landscape in Turkey, all the political parties are stating that the Gulenist terror group is behind this coup attempt. The Turkish public is also saying the same thing. As the EU, do you think that you are going to re-evaluate your stances against this group and its activities across Europe?
Not for the moment. This assessment is normally initiated by one or more Member States and conducted by unanimity of Member States. I do not see this happening in this moment.
I was just thinking that the next time we have the dialogue directly with the press, so it is a live… and vibrant, and real time.
As you see, the issues of discussions have been real and articulated.
I would just like to underline three points. One, Mevlüt, you said it: the European Union Member States showed solidarity. This is a good thing, because actually we are called European Union and as a family we take decisions together, we stand together and in difficult and less difficult times. This is why it is so important that every single Member State develops good bilateral relations with Turkey and vice-versa. This is the healthy basis for an overall positive, constructive cooperation between the European Union and Turkey as a whole.
Second point, you said it, Mevlüt, I appreciated it. Amnesty International is a serious, respected organisation. As such, for what concerns the European Union, we value their work enormously everywhere in the world as well as we value the work of the human rights defenders everywhere in the world. They can count on the European Union everywhere in the world to support their daily and difficult work.
Last but not least, also for us the deals we sign are respected also because if we had to change mind with the weather, being based in Brussels would be a serious problem.
Thank you very much.
Link to the video (Q&A): http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I142176