By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) - The EU’s relationship with Turkey cannot be limited to just migration, the EU’s foreign policy chief said on Friday.
The questions of migration and financial aid are an important part of ties between Turkey and the EU, but there are many other aspects to be improved, Josep Borrell told a press conference after a videoconference of EU foreign ministers.
Borrell was tasked in March to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to find ways to improve implementation of the 2016 EU-Turkey deal on migration.
"Despite the coronavirus, I am in touch with my colleague and friend, the minister of foreign affairs of Turkey,” said Borrell, adding that both sides “are in continuous discussion to look for a solution.”
The EU’s diplomatic service is also supposed to deliver a report on future prospects for the agreement, but Borrell declined to offer a preview.
But last week, Borrell told journalists that the assessment would cover the topics of visa liberalization and updating the Customs Union, two areas in the 2016 deal where Turkey has complained of broken EU promises
At their meeting, EU ministers discussed the foreign policy aspects of the pandemic.
Borrell reiterated the importance of immediate cease-fires in war-torn Syrian, Libya, and Yemen where “the devastating effect of the coronavirus can be multiplied by the conflict.”
The EU foreign ministers are considering sending assistance to the most vulnerable countries to fight the pandemic.
Borrell said he thinks the biggest danger is in African countries, whose healthcare systems face shortages of equipment and staff.
The repatriation of EU citizens is still ongoing, with Borrell saying 350,000 Europeans have gotten home so far with the help of consular coordination between member states.
Some 250,000 citizens still need to get home, which poses a great challenge for authorities after most commercial flights were suspended.
- EU-Turkey deal
The 2016 deal was reached to stop irregular refugee flows and improve conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The EU had pledged €6 billion ($6.5 billion) aid for the refugees, but so far transferred less than half of that, according to Turkey.
According to Ankara, the EU also backed away from political commitments as part of the deal, including visa liberalization for Turkish citizens traveling to Europe, opening new chapters in the accession process, and negotiations on upgrading the EU-Turkey Customs Union.
This March, the EU and Turkey were at loggerheads after tens of thousands of refugees tried to cross the Greek border after Turkish authorities announced they would no longer try to block irregular migrants from reaching Europe.
The decision came after 34 Turkish soldiers lost their lives in a Syrian regime attack in the Idlib de-escalation zone. The renewed attacks risked another wave of migration to Turkey, which already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot take in any more.
In March Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan started negotiations with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to solve the disagreement.