April 23
2021
Trajan Shipley
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7th April 2021
External Relations & Trade Human Rights

Presidents Michel and von der Leyen’s official visit to Ankara: main takeaways

European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Turkish President Erdoğan in Ankara on 6 April in the highest level attempt there has been in the last five years to relaunch EU-Turkey relations. Both parties have seen a deterioration in their relationship, which the EU attributes to Turkey’s assertive behaviour with regard to migration issues, tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, and respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights.

Leaders discussed the stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly with regard to Greece and Cyprus, Turkey’s position with regard to Syrian refugees and its military activities in Libya, as well as on the respect of fundamental rights and the respect of freedom of speech, political pluralism and media. According to EU officials, express mention was made to Turkey’s recent withdrawal from the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention).

According to the European Council’s press release, the EU signalled its readiness to pursue a positive bilateral agenda based on economic cooperation, migration, and people-to-people contacts and mobility, and highlighted that the EU has a strategic interest in developing a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey while being committed to defend its Member States and promote its values.

However, the meeting’s highlight concerned a protocol incident in which Commission President von der Leyen was not provided with a seat at the same range as Presidents Michel and Erdoğan, which, as reported in general media, was contrary to the normal protocol customs afforded to both EU presidents, including in previous EU-Turkey meetings.

Read the European Council’s press release here.

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