EU Commission aims at honest conversations with Turkey

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The European Commission is preparing to hold “honest conversations” with Turkey under the fresh chairmanship, the president of EU body said on Wednesday.

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The EU has serious issues to discuss with Turkey, including respect for international law, Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of European Commission, told reporters following the first meeting of the College of Commissioners.

Von der Leyen also highlighted the importance of the refugee deal inked between Turkey and the EU in 2016.

She confirmed that Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, in charge of promoting the European Way of Life, and Ylva Johansson, a commissioner for Home Affairs, will travel to Turkey on Friday to discuss migration with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The visit is supposed to reinforce the cooperation between the EU and Turkey after last month’s diplomatic tensions, when Erdogan talked about the possibility of suspending the 2016 deal after the EU condemned the Turkish military operation in northern Syria.

“I want it to be a geopolitical commission,” von der Leyen said about the EU’s foreign and trade policy.

She declined to say if the EU is willing to announce tariffs on import from the U.S. but called for a well-prepared meeting with the transatlantic partner and better coordination between the EU’s external and internal policies.

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She also expressed hope that Albania and North Macedonia will soon be given the chance to start accession negotiations with the EU, but acknowledged that France had legitimate reasons to seek revision of the accession process.

Nevertheless, she called the outcome of EU leaders’ summit in October “a strategic mistake,” where French President Emmanuel Macron did not give the green light for the start of accession talks with the two Balkan countries.

In her readout of the college meeting, von der Leyen also expressed her commitment towards a “European Defense Union,” and stressed the importance of investing in the bloc’s defense capacities so that the EU can defend itself if necessary.

Von der Leyen’s first official visit outside the EU will be in Ethiopia. She will travel to Addis Ababa on Friday to meet representatives of the African Union.

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