Remarks by Commissioner Johannes Hahn at the press conference following the EU - Turkey High Level Political DialogueRemarks by Commissioner Johannes Hahn at the press conference following the EU - Turkey High Level Political Dialogue
Brussels, 25 July 2017
Thank you very much. First, I would like to thank Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu and Minister for EU Affairs Ömer Celik for the constructive discussions we had just now.
The European Union has a clear interest in a close cooperation with a stable, secure, economically successful and democratic Turkey on issues of common interest. As in any partnership the European Union is engaging with the people of Turkey are at the centre of this dialogue and cooperation, as well as the citizens of Europe.
In our meeting today with the Turkish authorities we have discussed on how we can better structure our cooperation on economic, security and migration issues, but also how to best cooperate on the international scene, how to join forces in crisis management and dealing with conflicts that threaten both the European Union and Turkey.
Human rights, the rule of law, democracy, fundamental freedoms including media freedom, are all basic imperative requirements for any progress towards the European Union. In that respect, we are grateful for all the information we have received today.
But I would like to stress, once again, our very strong concern about the imprisonment of a large number of journalists, writers, academics, lawyers and human rights defenders. And we expect the due legal procedures in respect of the presumption of innocence.
Freedom of expression and of assembly are fundamental pillars of democratic society. Civil society should be able to do its legitimate work.
We need progress in all these areas to move on to our positive agenda. As it was already said, on 18 March 2016, we committed to implement the EU-Turkey Statement which provides a comprehensive roadmap to address our common challenges and opportunities. And the EU firmly stands by its commitments. We believe both sides have achieved important progress up until now.
Through our cooperation to tackle the refugee crisis we managed to break the smugglers' business model in the Aegean Sea and, most importantly, to save lives. At the same time, we continue to address the situation of refugees in Turkey. Turkey's extraordinary hospitality in hosting now more than 2.7 million Syrians in need is remarkable.
We have set up the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and out of the initial € 3 billion foreseen for this Facility, we have committed so far, which means allocated - we are clear how and where the money should be spent - € 2.9 billion. We have out of this contracted more than € 1.6 billion, so 48 projects and so far precisely disbursed € 826 million. I am proud to say that the Facility is well on its way to reach the target of contracting all funds by the end of this year.
We have also discussed visa liberalisation. Our message on this is clear: we will deliver our part of the deal as soon as Turkey meets all the remaining benchmarks. We stand ready to support Turkey on this last but difficult bit and we are talking about five remaining benchmarks out of 72.
Our cooperation goes of course well beyond migration. We will continue our good work on energy and the economy. On these matters, high level dialogues will be held until the year ends. We will have one on energy in September, one on transport in November and on economy in December.
Today's discussion covered all of this ground and it is good that we are in close touch with our Turkish counterparts. All the positive potential we jointly address is, however, clearly conditioned to a reversal of the negative trend on democracy and fundamental rights in Turkey. This is where I am keen to see positive developments as soon as possible and I hope today's meeting is a contribution to this positive development. Thank you!
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