EU in Bratislava expresses support for Turkey

Foreign ministers at informal meeting in Bratislava outlined their position on Turkey, Ukraine, and further enlargement ahead of full EU summit.

Federica Mogherini and Miroslav Lajčák at their joint press conference in Bratislava, during Slovak presidency of EU Council.Federica Mogherini and Miroslav Lajčák at their joint press conference in Bratislava, during Slovak presidency of EU Council. (Source: Sme - Jozef Jakubčo)

Foreign ministers of EU member states met in Bratislava on Saturday at their informal meeting called Gymnich. It was the first meeting of this kind after the Brexit vote, taking place shortly before the Bratislava summit scheduled for mid-September.

Turkish Foreign Minster Omer Celik was invited to the meeting too. He criticised the EU for the lack of support to Turkey after the failed coup in July, the Sme daily reported.

EU stands by Erdogan

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini however stressed following the meeting that the EU continues supporting the Turkish government and institutions and do not plan to cancel any of the agreements that are currently in place, including visa liberalisation and agreements about energy sector or migration.

“It was the first opportunity for all to express solidarity and respect to the Turkish authorities and the Turkish people,” Mogherini said as quoted by Sme, adding that the EU supports legitimate and democratically elected institutions. EU accession talks will continue as long as Turkey sticks with all the conditions that have been drawn, Sme cited Mogherini.

The EU will push for freedom of media, as well as for withdrawing the anti-terrorist law that allows the Turkish government for example to arrest activists. Celik however claimed that in the current state of affairs it is not possible for Turkey to change that law, Sme wrote.

Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák labelled Turkey the most interesting topic of the meeting, as reported by the TASR newswire.

The situation in Ukraine is also among the main concerns of the EU diplomats. Officials admitted that the ceasefire is only partially observed and the EU should provide more aid to people in the conflict zones in the Donbass region, Sme wrote.

Further enlargement

The ministers also discussed the potential further enlargement of the EU, particularly towards Western Balkans. Representatives of EU candidate countries Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia also took part in the Gymnich meeting.

The integration of these countries was also the subject of talks at the Interparliamentary Conference for Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defence Policy organised within Slovakia's Presidency of the EU that took place at the Bratislava Castle simultaneously on September 2 and September 3.

Mogherini wants every country of the Western Balkans “to progress in such a way that the integration process in these countries becomes irreversible”, she told the conference as quoted by TASR, and added that there has already been significant progress in these countries.

“The talks were devoted to topics such as preventing radicalism, extremism and fighting terrorism,” Lajčák said as quoted by TASR, adding that such issues “have been threatening us all, so we have to fight them together”.

Enlargement of the EU is a strategic investment in its security and prosperity, and the European project won't be complete without the Western Balkans, Lajčák told the interparliamentary conference.

“Despite many improvements, the situation in the Western Balkans still can't be seen as completely peaceful and stable. Therefore, the EU has to remain actively engaged in the region,” said Lajčák as quoted by TASR, noting that this is one of the reasons why Slovakia included enlargement policy among the priorities of its Presidency of the EU Council.

Presidency is a success

The Slovak EU presidency is a big success, according to Mogherini. She said the debate in Bratislava was intensive, and this was a historic as well as very complicated moment, she said as reported by Sme.

“Judging by the very intensive work that has been done over the past two days, I can say that the Slovak presidency is already a great success that has significantly contributed towards building joint stances and has moved a number of important issues forward,” she said as quoted by TASR.

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