The EU is ready to engage with Turkey in a “phased, proportionate, reversible manner,” to enhance cooperation in areas of common interest, according to a European Council conclusion adopted by EU leaders on Thursday.
They met virtually to discuss foreign policy issues, including Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean. The session was chaired by European Council President Charles Michel.
The EU leaders asked the Council to work on a mandate on the modernization of the 25-year-old EU-Turkey Customs Union, and noted that the EU is ready “to take further decisions at the European Council meeting in June.”
The de-escalation of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, resumption of talks between Turkey and Greece, and upcoming talks on Cyprus under the auspices of the UN was welcomed.
“Provided that the current de-escalation is sustained and that Turkey engages constructively, and subject to the established conditionalities set out in the previous European Council conclusions, in order to further strengthen the recent more positive dynamic, the European Union is ready to engage with Turkey in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner to enhance cooperation in a number of areas of common interest and take further decision at the European Council meeting in June,” the document read.
They said that the EU is ready to launch “high-level dialogue with Turkey on issues of mutual concern” such as counter-terrorism, public health, and climate.
The representatives also urged the Commission to look for ways to improve people-to-people contact and mobility with Turkey.
Aid to Syrian refugees to continue
The EU hailed Turkey for hosting nearly four million Syrian refugees, saying EU assistance to the host communities will continue.
“We invite the commission to present a proposal to the Council for the continuation of financing of Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and other parts of the region.”
The read-out said cooperation with Turkey on migration should be strengthened in areas such as “border protection, combating illegal migration, as well as the return of irregular migrants and rejected asylum seekers to Turkey, in accordance with EU-Turkey Statement, applied in a non-discriminatory manner.”
Cyprus issue, Eastern Mediterranean
According to the document, the 27-member bloc is committed to resolve the Cyprus dispute in accordance with the related UN Security Council resolutions, and the EU is looking forward to the resumption of talks under the auspices of the UN, in which the bloc will participate as an observer.
The bloc will play an active role in the negotiations and will appoint a representative to the UN Good Office Mission, it said.
The leaders asked High Representative Josep Borrell to work on a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We will continue to closely monitor developments and seek a coordinated approach with partners. The European Council will revert to this matter at its meeting in June,” the read-out said.
Separately, it said, “Rule of law and fundamental rights remain a key concern. Dialogue on such issues remains an integral part of the EU-Turkey relationship.”