In his introductory remarks, at the meeting of EU heads of state or government with Turkey, President Donald Tusk said: “[T]his is an important moment for the EU and I am sure also for Turkey. If the ambitious agreement that we are about to adopt is fully implemented, the 29th of November 2015 will be a crucial date in EU-Turkish relations.
Handling the migration crisis was the immediate reason for our meeting today. Approximately 1.5 million people have illegally entered the EU in 2015. Most have come through Turkey. Some seek shelter from war and persecution. Others seek a better life. And a few seek to destroy our values.
But this is not about the EU outsourcing its security and migration policy to Turkey. Nor is it about adding a burden on Turkey; a country that has demonstrated its solidarity to more than 2 million refugees and is itself experiencing the strains from dealing with this situation. But it is addressing these challenges together.
We, the European Union, will strengthen our support to refugees in Turkey and the region, stem irregular migration, work on returns, increase our support to visa liberalisation and crack down, together, on the criminal smugglers’ networks. Beyond that, we commit to play our part in intensifying our bilateral relationship.
In return, we expect to see an immediate and substantial reduction of irregular migrants arriving to Europe. And we expect Turkey under the new government to assist us in realising the common objective of coming closer together, through reforms, the upholding of the highest standards of human rights and media freedom, and the implementation of agreed roadmaps and benchmarks.
In the end, this meeting is not only about handling the migration crisis. Out of crises come opportunities. And the opportunity we are embracing today is to get our relationship to a new and higher level that matches our common interests. An opportunity to re-energise our bilateral relations, for the benefit of both Turkey and the European Union. We will agree to meet regularly to intensify our dialogues at all levels. We agree to be more ambitious when it comes to the accession process, and to work together to achieve the goal of visa-free travel, while strengthening cooperation on counter-terrorism, trade, energy, and economic relations.
Finally migration is not the only topic we need to address. Recent developments have underlined that the issue of taking coordinated actions in Syria remains a priority. The tragic attacks in Paris demonstrated that our fight against terrorism has to enter a new phase. This will be a common task for the EU and Turkey. Without a quick and lasting solution to the crisis in Syria, people will still be fleeing the war. Here, let me stress the need to give our full support to the Vienna process.”