EU ministers in Turkey have commented on a range of issues including control and care of migrants, a ceasefire with the Kurdish PKK and freedom of speech. Ankara is still waiting for a 3-billion-euro EU payment.
European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Turkey on Monday that the European Union (EU) was closely watching Turkish actions in relation to the record flow of migrants to Europe following the 3-billion-euro ($3.2 billion) deal reached last year with Ankara to curb migration into the bloc.
Hahn said that the number of Syrians fleeing the civil war currently made up less than 40 percent of the total number of migrants passing through Turkey into the EU. Syrians had been the largest group in 2015. He said that the EU was closely monitoring whether actions taken by Turkey were affecting the movement of migrants.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the 3 billion euros promised by the EU to Turkey to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe would be delivered: "I am very much confident that the amount that was decided will be there in very reasonable timing," Mogherini said in Ankara at a press briefing on Monday.
Mogherini added that it was important to begin the transition process in Syria, developing improved humanitarian conditions on the ground. She said the EU had to do more to support Turkey in its work caring for refugees.
Kurdish ceasefire call
The EU's High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also expressed concern about the situation in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast. Mogherini called for a ceasefire in the Kurdish-dominated region where the Turkish army has launched a campaign against militant members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
"We call for an immediate ceasefire in the southeast and strongly condemn all kinds of terrorism," Mogherini told the joint press conference with Turkish ministers in Ankara on Monday.
Hahn added: "We are ready to contribute with regards to the Kurdish peace process. We have an imminent interest on that because it can affect the security in the region, and in the broader sense, the EU."
However, Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir remarked: "As a sovereign state, Turkey will continue its struggle against all terrorist organisations, including the PKK, which are threatening its national security," he said. "In doing so, we try to protect the rights of our citizens."
Freedom of expression
Turkey was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership of the EU at the end of 1999 and negotiations began in 2005. But Germany has expressed its concerns about Turkey's membership. Among issues of concern are the current curbs on critical speech in Turkey.
Hahn said that freedom of expression was seen by the EU as fundamental in Turkey's bid to join the bloc.
More than 1,200 academics in Turkey are currently under investigation by prosecutors for engaging in "terrorist propaganda" after they signed a petition urging Ankara to stop "its deliberate massacres" in the Kurdish-majority region.
jm/jil (Reuters, AFP)