By invitation of the European Council President Charles Michel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Brussels to meet and hold discussions with officials of the European Union. The topics on the agenda were visa liberalization between Turkey and the EU, and a refugee crisis created by Turkey that affects the EU.
An announcement from the office of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen stated that items on the agenda for the meetings would include: the latest developments in Syria, particularly the city Idlib; the refugee issue created after Turkey decided to no longer stop migrants attempting to cross their borders and enter Greece; and visa liberalization between the two parties. The statement also said that Leyen would be in attendance for the meetings.
“Bilateral relations will be addressed thoroughly, and steps to strengthen cooperation will be discussed during the meeting, which will also be attended by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen,” the statement reads.
Turkey’s decision to no longer try and prevent migrants from entering Greece came as a response to an attack on 34 Turkish soldiers in Syria who were killed by the Bashar Assad regime’s forces in Idlib at the end of February.
This decision caused a wave of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from the Turkish province of Edirne along the border with Greece and Bulgaria to try and enter into Europe.
Because of the situation that Turkey created, Greece has received additional assets and assistance from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, FRONTEX, to try and secure their borders with Turkey and stop further waves of migrants entering the European Union.
Turkey’s decision to not stop migrants from entering the EU is in opposition of a readmission deal signed in 2016 between Turkey and the EU to stop migrants from using Turkey as their main route to enter the EU.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has used the deal as a bargaining chip in the past to pressure the EU into allowing visa-free entry into EU and Schengen countries for Turkish citizens by threatening to scrap the agreement altogether.
Cavusoglu had previously stated that Turkey will abandon the readmission agreement until a visa-free admission deal is reached.
“We will not wait at the EU’s door. The readmission agreement and visa-free deal will be put into effect at the same time,” said Cavusoglu.
The readmission deal came at a cost of about 6 billion € being allocated to Turkey by the EU to both help Syrian asylum seekers who are already there and help keep more waves from appearing to avoid further crises. Syria has been in a civil war since 15 March 2011, almost exactly 9 years as of the date this article was written. The war has left an estimated 400,000 people dead.