This Tuesday, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. This summit is part of the process of rapprochement with Turkey, a plan approved by Brussels that was prompted by the deterioration of relations between Ankara and the European Union. Among the objectives of this rapprochement are renewing the migration agreement and achieving stability in the Mediterranean after the gas crisis that has affected Greece. Because of this conflict, Brussels sanctioned the state oil company involved, worsening relations with Turkey.
At the meeting, EU representatives Von der Leyen and Michel stressed that any move to improve relations between Ankara and Brussels depends on Turkey's commitment to respect human rights. They also made clear that a "stable and secure environment" for Cyprus and Greece was necessary in the rapprochement process. "In recent months we have seen a de-escalation, which is positive. Also the start of exploratory talks with Greece. We hope that this de-escalation will continue and increase," Michael said at the end of the meeting. "We have offered a positive agenda, it is now up to Turkey to seize this opportunity," he added.
EU representatives offered Erdogan improvements in the economic sphere with a modernisation of the Customs Union, a point requested by the EU-27 when the rapprochement was approved. Improvements were also promised in student exchange programmes and in the mobility of Turkish citizens, with Turkish citizens being able to travel to the EU without visas.
On the refugee crisis facing Turkey, which also affects the EU, the EU was offered assistance to integrate displaced Syrians. The current migration agreement consists of 6 billion euros for the maintenance of thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey, in exchange for the Turkish government closing the migration route with Greece. Von der Leyen also announced that the European Commission will present a new proposal to financially support Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan with the refugee crisis. This measure will focus on "creating the conditions for refugees to be able to earn a living by their own means", Von der Leyen said.
The President of the European Commission used the meeting to express her rejection of the Turkish government's recent decision to abandon the Istanbul Convention against violence against women. "We urge Turkey to reverse its decision because it is the first binding international instrument to combat violence against women," said Ms Von der Leyen. She also pointed to the need to join "in the global fight against violence against women and children". The Belgian politician also took centre stage at the meeting after being relegated to the background. On arriving in the room where the meeting was being held, Von der Leyen was surprised to find that there were only two chairs in the middle, already occupied by Michel and Erdogan. The president had to sit on a sofa at one side of the room, away from the main chairs. This gesture was widely criticised among European politicians. "First they withdraw from the Istanbul Convention and now they leave the president of the European Commission on an official visit without a seat. Shameful", tweeted Iratxe García, leader of the Social Democrats in the European Parliament. The European People's Party also commented on Twitter: "Someone should be ashamed of the lack of a proper seat for Von der Leyen". Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu came to Turkey's defence, saying his country had been subjected to "extremely unfair" criticism from "the highest levels of the European Union".