Top EU Officials Meet with Turkish Islamist Prez in Bid to Thaw Relations

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech following an evaluation meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on April 5, 2021. - Erdogan on April 5, 2021, accused dozens of retired admirals of eyeing a "political coup" by attacking his plans for a canal linking the Black Sea to …
ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel met with Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan to discuss migration and thaw recent rocky relations.

The meeting took place in the Turkish capital of Ankara and saw the two top European Union officials meet with the Turkish president following Erdogan’s change in tone towards the EU in January, in which he spoke of mending ties with the political bloc.

According to a report from German newspaper Münchner Merkur, the European Union has offered Turkey a “restart” on relations that could include increased economic cooperation and financial support to the country.

The offers come despite concerns voiced by President von der Leyen and President Michel over Turkey’s domestic situation, particularly as it concerns human rights and democracy.

Last month, a Turkish prosecutor has recently moved to disband the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) after accusations that the party had been working with Kurdish militants. The HDP has denied the allegations, however.

Just days later, Turkey withdrew from a European treaty aimed at protecting women from violence. The move was labelled “devastating” by Council of Europe Secretary-General, Marija Pejčinović Burić.

Commission President von der Leyen spoke of a “good first meeting” and claimed that Turkey was looking for “constructive” dialogue with the EU.

She added that a range of topics was discussed during the three-hour meeting, including customs union modernisation, visa travel for Turkish citizens into the EU, and more financial aid for the approximately four million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

Since the signing of the EU-Turkey migration deal in 2016, the EU has already offered the Turkish €6 billion (£5.1 billion/$7.1 billion) to pay for Syrian refugees.

The meeting comes after months of tense relations between several European Union member states and the Turkish government.

Erdogan and his government have conflicted with Greece over migration and Turkish research vessels in the Eastern Aegean and has also been at odds with French President Emmanuel Macron following his crackdown on Islamists groups after the murder of teacher Samuel Paty.

Last month, Macron stated that he expected the Turkish government would interfere with next year’s French presidential elections, saying: “Obviously, there will be attempts at interference for the next election. They’re written, and the threats are not veiled.”

In February, the Netherlands’ counter-terror office expressed concern over President Erdogan’s links to radical Islamists in the country.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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