Tag Archives: Turkey

Borrell on travel restrictions for Turkey

“Turkey is not only a close neighbour for the European Union, especially for some Member States – it is clear it is a closer neighbour to Greece than to Portugal for example, or Ireland – but it is a key partner, it is a candidate country for accession, and the fact that we in Europe discuss extensively and frequently about Turkey just reflects the importance that we attach to this relationship” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, at the press conference following his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Çavuşoğlu in Ankara, Turkey.

“The advantage of our talks, dear Minister [[of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu], is that we can talk openly, frankly, in a constructive approach. Because currently the situation is far from being ideal. There are many serious issues that require our immediate attention. I want to change for the best the dynamics in our relationship because I believe that we have a mutual interest to get out of this situation and chart a new and positive trajectory, avoiding any kind of incident that could spark more troubles.

“First, the Eastern Mediterranean is a key region for Europe. It is time to tackle this, in order to create a way forward, conductive to confidence building, dialogue, good neighbourhood relations, stability and security. And this cannot be done by unilateral actions but requires cooperation and dialogue.

“The COVID-19 requires cooperation, unhappily it has not been the case worldwide, there is more confrontation than cooperation, but among us we should try to look for more cooperation than confrontation. I will have also the opportunity to discuss with the Minister of Defence [of Turkey, Hulusi Akar]. We are going to talk about the deterioration of the situation in the Aegean Sea, in the Eastern Mediterranean and what it means for EU-Turkey relations…

“…Let me just say that I understand the preoccupations of Turkey about the travel restrictions. I just want to say that Turkey has not been included in this list because we are adopting a progressive lifting of the travel restrictions on non-essential inbound travel. Only 15 countries have been selected to be part of this list, the approach that the Commission’s services in charge of these issues has followed is based on objective criteria related primarily to the health situation. These criteria are objective, applying them is not a mechanical exercise, it involves some qualitative judgement that is not set in stone. It will be revisited at least every two weeks, taking into account the evolving health situation.

“Moreover, not being on the list does not mean a complete travel ban. Citizens and people with an essential reason to come to Europe should be allowed to travel. As I said at least every two weeks we are going to reassess the situation according with the data provided by the health authorities of the states with which we would like to open our borders as soon as possible”.

Orthodox cleric criticises Hagia Sophia Islamisation

Transformation of the Istanbul Hagia Sophia historic monument from a museum to a mosque would be “unacceptable”, a senior official in the Russian Orthodox Church said on July 4.

President Tayyip Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a sixth century building, the Christian Byzantine emblematic consturciton, which became one of most visited world monuments.

“We can’t go back to the Middle Ages now,” Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, said on state television, reported the Interfax news agency.

“We live in a multipolar world, we live in a multi-confessional world and we need to respect the feelings of believers.”

Hilarion said the Russian Orthodox Church did not understand the reason for Hagia Sophia’s transformation and that they believed domestic politics was behind the move.

“We believe that in the current conditions this act is an unacceptable violation of religious freedom,” the cleric concluded.

A Turkish court earlier this week heard a case aimed at transfering the building back into a mosque and will announce its verdict mid-July.

The court case, brought by an NGO, disputes the legality of a decision in 1934, in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to convert Hagia Sophia – known in Turkish as Ayasofya – from a mosque into a museum.

However the revolutionary proposal of NGO, backed by President Erdogan, has been criticised by other religious and political leaders.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said converting it into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would “fracture” East and West.

Erdogan has assessed the foreign criticism over the proposal as an attack on Turkey’s sovereignty.

Russian meida reported that the first symbolic Muslim service could take place mid-July.

Socialist MEPs block Resolution on Turkey

The European Peopole’s Party (EPP) has issued a statement following the Left Groups S&D and GUE block of the Resolution from European Parliament as tensions continue to increase between the European Unions and Turkey.

On the initiative of the EPP Group, the European Parliament will debate the continued and repeated aggression of Turkey against Greece and Cyprus next week. In light of the situation, Chairman of the EPP Group, Manfred Weber MEP, called for an urgent debate with High Representative Josep Borrell.

“Turkey is unilaterally escalating conflicts with Europe and the situation is getting worse. Turkish security forces attack the Greek border on a regular basis and the drilling attempts in the waters of Cyprus are intensifying continuously. The EU cannot leave these aggressions unanswered.”

Greece has seen repeated attempts by groups of people trying to cross the border illegally, with the help of the Turkish security forces. The Head of the Greek Delegation of the EPP Group, Vangelis Meimarakis MEP, stated: “President Erdogan is provoking another refugee crisis for his own benefit on the back of desperate people. Turkey’s actions undermine the refugee agreement and are a threat to stability in Europe. The European Parliament should send a clear signal to Turkey that it has gone too far and that it must stop challenging the EU.”

Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus have also been escalating recently. “We expect the European Union to show solidarity in practice and to vigorously defend Cyprus and Greece against Turkish aggression. If the current measures do not stop Turkey’s illegal activities, it is clear we need to further increase the pressure”, said the Head of the Cypriot Delegation of the EPP Group, Lefteris Christoforou MEP.

The EPP Group called for a strong statement from the European Parliament, a debate and a Resolution, to denounce Turkey’s actions. However, during the discussions with the other political Groups, the Socialists (S&D) and the Communists (GUE) blocked a Resolution on the matter.

“In light of the facts on the ground, it is incomprehensible that the Left wing parties reject a strong and clear signal from the European Parliament”, the MEPs noted.

Image: illustration, European Parliament hearing, Brussels

Turkey neo-Sultan «Sword-law»

Costas MAVRIDES OPINION In modern neo-Ottoman Turkey, there is a hysteria for new conquests, while disrespecting of international law and fundamental ethics. On a daily basis, actions and statements of Turkish officials (from Erdogan and his ministers) are made with complete contempt for International and EU Law, while different voices are silenced or persecuted.

Such a different voice is one by Burak Bekdil, a well known journalist who was fired from Turkey’s leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing at “Gatestone” about what is taking place in Turkey! In his latest article at Gatestone (“Turkey: Erdoğan Wishes “Many More Happy Conquests”), Bekdil focused on the hypocrisy and arrogance of modern Turkey on the occasion of the celebrations of the fall of Constantinople, during which President Erdogan referred to, not only to the past conquests, but to the “many more happy conquests” in the future. The question posed by the now persecuted journalist is straight forward: What are these non-Turkish countries and territories that Erdogan expects to conquer? As the journalist stressed, the prevailing distortion and arrogance in today’s Turkish politics is based on the Ottoman “Law of the Sword”: the conqueror can rule a conquered country or territory according to his desires.

The “spirit of conquest” is dominant in the modern Turkish political scene and infects daily life within and outside of Turkey e.g. attacks and destruction of churches and cemeteries, forced disappearances, torture, murders, imprisonment, persecution. Such crimes are ‘washed away’ by the Turkish state apparatus, given that courts in Turkey are Erdogan’s tool so that such criminals are easily acquitted, and many turn into … national heroes! Under the same hypocrisy and arrogance, other ethnic groups and non-Muslims are purged, and churches turned into mosques. The depredation of property, a criminal act by all means, if committed on behalf of conquest, is hailed as a heroic achievement. In fact, in Turkish educational system, there is a special celebration for the conquests!

Conquests and arrogance are at the core of Turkey’s current ‘spread’ (e.g. sending jihadists and weapons to Libya, before the eye of the EU and NATO, despising UN Security Council arms embargo). Incidentally, it was recently announced that ethnic cleansing of Kurdish and other populations in the Turkish-occupied Afrin region of Syria, had been completed. Such crimes of conquest, ethnic cleansing and colonization continue unpunished in Cyprus, while new illegal actions are in process in the Cyprus EEZ, the Aegean, and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Before this neo-Ottoman “Law of the Sword”, the prevailing political perception in EU, is that dialogue should prevail, while the neo Sultan of Turkey is advancing. History repeats itself but very few learn from it.

Costas Mavrides, Member of European Parliament

Chair of the Political Committee of the Mediterranean

Image: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Borrell visits Cyprus

The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell paid visit to Nicosia to meet the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Christodoulides as well as the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades and the Defence Minister Savvas Angelides, “after having heard the strong message delivered by the President of the Republic [of Cyprus, Nicos] Anastasiades at the last European Council and also having heard you many times at the Foreign Affairs Council, to discuss recent events and the deteriorating situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, mainly because of exploration and drilling operations performed by Turkey in contested areas [by Turkey]. I want to come and see for myself, to listen to Cyprus’ concerns and to work on a way out of this complex situation”.

“To start, let me underline that the European Union is firmly supportive of the Republic of Cyprus and its sovereignty and sovereign rights. My message is a message of strong solidarity. Cyprus’ concerns, your concerns, are the European Union’s concerns. You have difficult relations with Turkey in general, these relations are currently facing important and difficult challenges.

“On the Turkish drillings, the European Union is continuously demonstrating its unwavering support to and solidarity with Cyprus as expressed in various European Council conclusions and statements, and most recently in the Foreign Affairs Council in May and also shown in concrete measures taken.

“This being the situation, and expressing our solidarity and concerns, we need to try to do our best, and I know you are also very much interested in improving the relations with Turkey through an open dialogue, in order to try to avoid an escalation that could be very damaging for all of us.

“For that, the delimitation of exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf must be discussed in good faith, fully respecting international law and the principle of good relations between neighbours. Because at the end of the day, we should try to be good neighbours and that is why the European Union was invented, to foster good neighbours’ relations and to find solutions through dialogue and negotiations.

“In this respect, we welcome the invitation by the Government of Cyprus to Turkey to negotiate in good faith the maritime delimitation between their relevant coasts. We will also be engaging on that, because regional stability is a priority for the European Union. I hope that the next Foreign Affairs Council, with your contribution, will help to clarify the options and the way forward in order to solve these problems and improve our relations with Turkey”.

COVID19: Luxembourg hosts migrant minors

A group of unaccompanied refugee children was relocated from Greek islands to Luxembourg, the European Commission said.

Twelve children between the ages of 11 and 15 were taken from Lesvos, Samos and Chios to Luxemburg, and 50 more will be transferred to Germany this coming weekend.

Greece says there are 42,000 asylum-seekers on its islands, of which 1,500 are children and minors.

To ease pressure on Greek authorities, the European Commission in early Mach opened a relocation program for minors who had been stranded in camps on the islands.

Ten EU members, and Switzerland, responded to the Commission’s call.

The eleven countries pledged to relocate 1,600 asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors and families in a fragile situation.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the program, but Luxemburg gave the green light last week after Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and Greek Minister of Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos had a exchange of opinion via telephone.

The decision was intended to support Greek authorities “facing in particular the risk of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in overcrowded refugee camps,” the government of Luxembourg explained in a statement April 15.

In times where coronavirus is taking its toll on everyday life, it is commendable to see Member States honoring their commitments and working together to help vulnerable migrants on the Greek islands,” EU Commissioner for Promoting our European way of life Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said as 12 children arrived in Luxemburg.

Greece imposed a curfew on migrants living in Lesvos’ Moria refugee camp in March.

The Ritsona refugee camp near Athens was placed under lockdown two weeks ago after 20 cases of coronavirus infection were established.

Human Rights Watch launched a campaign April 14 to secure the release of hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Greece.

According to the #FreeTheKids campaign, at least 331 children are under police custody waiting for transfer to a shelter.

Greek authorities call the measures protective custody.

Erdogan requests aid for migrants

We had tonight a meeting with President Erdoğan. A few days after my visit in Ankara, it was important to have this occasion to exchange our views on different topics related to the relationship between Turkey and the European Union. And of course, the first topic we discussed is the implementation of the deal between the European Union and Turkey on migration. We had the occasion to share our different opinions about the implementation of this deal a few years after this agreement” said the EU Council president Charles Michel.

“It is also very important to share with you that we will debrief the member states. We consulted a lot the member states the last days. It was, of course, necessary in order to inform them, in order to listen to the member states and to their concern regarding the different topics we have to discuss with Turkey. We will debrief the member states and it will also be the occasion later with the member states, after this process, this High-Level Political and technical process, between Turkey and the European Union through Josep Borrell and his counterpart in Turkey. It will also be the occasion to have, again, a political dialogue at the level of president Erdoğan in the next days and in the next weeks in order to continue this process of information and consultation of the different member states” Michel continued.

We also had the opportunity to explain the difference for the European Union between the means which are paid and disbursed, because the procedures are accomplished and the projects carried out, and the means which are committed, ie reserved in the case of the six billion euro envelope that was mobilized in connection with this agreement. This is a first point. Second point: we also had the opportunity to discuss security issues in the region, especially in Syria, and to highlight our mobilization in support of any political solution to bring more stability, but above all to highlight the the great humanitarian concern we have in Idlib, as well as on the border between Turkey and Syria. And the possible mobilization of the European Union to try to provide support in this area” Michel underlined.

However President Erdogan did not participate int he final press-conference, and some commentators assessed the meeting did not pass as foreseen, ending by abrupt departure of Turkish delegation.

The experts pointed at the talks failure, indicating that the positions of the parties are too far away to reach any rapprochement, especially responding to President Erdogan’s request to open Greek borders to let the migrants to pass further to the other European countries. In 2016, the EU struck a a financial arrangement with Turkey that prevented displaced Syrians from entering the EU via Greece in exchange for six billion euro aid. The agreement, although criticised by many, for time being has helped to stop Europe’s biggest refugee influx since World War II. It is unclear if Erdogan has accepted the explanations of the EU side on delays of transfers of six billion migrant funds to Turkey. In line with his previous strategy Erdogan continued to request visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens.

Germany willing to shelter children

Government is seeking a “coalition of the willing” to shelter migrant children across Europe. The EU is searching for way to avoid the second wave of the 2015 refugee crisis while thousands of migrants gather at Greece’s border. (Image: social media).

Germany is prepared to take in “an appropriate share” of the neediest refugee children hosted in overcrowded Greek migrant camps, Berlin officials said on March 9.
The official underlined that they are prepared to take children together with “a coalition of the willing” along with the other EU countries.

The announcement from the government came after Chancellor Angela Merkel met with members of her coalition government to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Greece including already existing situation in the migrants camps.

At present the crowds of migrants have been gathering along the Greece-Turkey border following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announcement Turkey borders were open to refugees seeking to cross into Greece.

German plan is set to help between 1,000 – 1,500 children identified as being particularly in need. This means either unaccompanied children under the age of 14 or children in need of urgent medical assistance. However no clarifications of methods of establishing real age of children were presented publicly. So far in absence of documents humanitarian organisations register age of migrants on bona fide basis without any further verifications. This practice has opened a broad gate of abuses, when young men of 25 years, and older registered as minors.

The Europeans discovered gross abuses in hosting refugee system when a Somalianchild refugee” stabbed a Swedish social worker to death. In the cause of prosecution the assailant has been identified to be at least three years older than the declared age of 15.

Alexandra Mezher, 22, was killed (25.01.2016) after she tried to break up a knife fight at an child migrant centre where she worked in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Educated to care for children Mezher herself had expressed concerns to her family about being the guardian for “big powerful guys aged up to 24“.

EU rejects Turkey migratory pressure

The Foreign Affairs Council adopted a statement on the crisis in Idlib and the situation at the EU external borders with Turkey. (Image: illustration).

In its statement, the Council acknowledges the increased migratory burden and risks Turkey is facing on its territory and the substantial efforts it has made in hosting 3,7 million migrants and refugees. The Council also strongly rejects Turkey’s use of migratory pressure for political purposes and restates that the EU and its member states remain determined to effectively protect EU’s external borders, in accordance with EU and international law.

In this context the Council reiterates the EU’s full solidarity with Greece, which faces an unprecedented situation, as well as with Bulgaria, Cyprus and other member states in their efforts to manage the EU’s external borders.

On Idlib, the Council notes that the recent and continuing offensive by the Syrian regime and its backers, including Russia, is creating untold human suffering and has provoked the worst humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.

The Council therefore calls for an urgent de-escalation of the conflict in Syria in order to avert a slide into international military confrontation, and prevent further suffering.

The Council notes the outcome of the Russia-Turkey meeting yesterday in Moscow and reiterates, in the strongest possible terms, its call on all parties to keep in place an immediate and a sustainable ceasefire, to guarantee the protection of civilians on the ground and from the air and to enable the unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance by the international community.

EU diplomats focus on Russia and Turkey

#Gymnich: Statement by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell following the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Zagreb, (Image: archive).

“…Turkey and Russia were in our agenda. Our relations with these two countries are difficult, but we have to improve them from different points of view. We have been accumulating difficulties and we have to restart a new approach to overcome these difficulties. [In our relations] with Russia we have five guiding principles since the Crimea crisis, which are very well fitted to the situation. We have to increase our engagement on selective issues, in which we have to have a good partnership with Russia: energy, climate change, Artic, Russia’s engagement in Syria and Libya, playing important roles that affect our security. Today has been an interesting approach on how to deal with that.

“On Turkey the situation is strongly linked to the crisis in Idlib. [We are] at the beginning of a migration crisis, the consequences of the Turks letting people go, making [them] maybe believe that the borders of Europe were open. We have to defend our borders, we have to conciliate the respect of the human rights of migrants with the fact that our borders cannot be violated, people cannot across the borders illegally. At the same time we have to talk with the Turks about many issues that affect directly our security, because Turkey is also playing an important role in the Libyan crisis.

“Tomorrow we are going to approve a statement putting [down in] black and white the conclusions, but today has been an open discussion about these two important neighbours which are unavoidably part of our security and part of our most important concerns.”


« Older Entries