EU-Turkey relations under the spotlight in Bratislava

EU-Turkey relations under the spotlight in Bratislava
By Catherine Hardy with AP, Reuters
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EU ministers tread a fine line between pushing Ankara to heed their concerns about human rights without affecting diplomatic relations.

EU foreign ministers have held for informal talks with the Turkish EU affairs minister Omar Celik in Bratislava.


Ministers appeared keen to tread a fine line between pushing Ankara to heed their concerns about human rights without affecting diplomatic relations.

The meeting is aimed at easing tensions that it is feared could sink a deal with Ankara meant to keep migrants from reaching Europe’s shores.

The agreement

Turkey has agreed to take back migrants from Syria and elsewhere who are trying to enter the EU from Turkey illegally.

The deal, agreed in March, has strongly reduced the migrant influx into the EU since it was fully implemented.

“Modest” hopes

With the two sides far apart in their expectations, hopes were modest for Saturday’s talks.

What does Turkey want?

Turkey is pushing for visa-free travel in the EU for its citizens.

Ankara is threatening to walk away from the migrant deal if its demands are not met.

Turkish officials are also angry over calls by some EU counterparts to suspend, or even end, more than a decade of talks on Turkey’s entry into the EU.

What does Brussels want?

Brussels says it will only agree if Ankara rolls back its crackdown on suspected coup supporters.


Concerns have been voiced about the state of human rights, including extending an anti-terrorist law that could be applied to journalists who criticise the authorities.

What is a “Gymnich”?

It is the name given to an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers with an agenda but without decisions, named after the first such informal meeting in 1974 at the Schloss Gymnich in Germany.

Find out more here

What they are saying

“We managed to accompany Turkey in such a way that the state of emergency it has established is compatible with its fulfillments of its own commitments to all the Council of Europe principles and values. And, by the way, also to the principles and values of the EU, being a candidate country,” – EU head of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini.

(The 28 ministers have) “a common understanding – what are our expectations from Turkey and what Turkey expects from us,” – Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency.


(Turkey is) “very important for the solution of current challenges facing Europe and the world. There are many, many reasons we have to talk,” – Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s foreign minister.

“Maybe we should even admit, self-critically, that the empathy and the emotions of these expressions of sympathy and solidarity did not reach Turkey with the required form and the required intensity,” – German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier.

“When you have seen the number of arrests, the developments in the country, we are worried. (Reintroducing the death penalty) would spell the end of (Turkey’s) hopes for joining the European Union,” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders pulls no punches in his criticism of Ankara’s crackdown following July’s failed coup.

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