European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: It is still too early for the Europe–Turkey relationship to improve

BRUSSELS — In a statement following her meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that the Commission will soon present a proposal to Turkey to ensure the flow of funding to refugees, noting that Ankara’s commitment to the 2016 refugee agreement shows goodwill.

However, she also expressed her concern about Turkey’s decision last month to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. Symbolically, unintentional or otherwise, von der Leyen found herself without a chair during the meeting with Erdoğan. President of the European Council Charles Michel, who was also a part of the meeting, filled the seat without much of a second thought.

Von der Leyen also pointed out that Europe wants to improve its relationship with Ankara, but it is still too early.

Joint disputes have increased over the years about many issues, especially the events last summer in the eastern Mediterranean when Turkey sent ships to support the mission of exploring energy into the territorial waters of Cyprus and Greece, two European Union members.

Tensions eased to some extent when Turkey withdrew its two ships and entered in 2021 into its first maritime talks with Greece since 2016.

As a result, the threat to impose potential sanctions on Turkey were stopped.

Absent from her remarks was the grave deterioration of human rights in Turkey.

Last month, European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell warned that the recent decisions of the Turkish authorities to disband the opposition Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) have increased the European Union’s concerns about the decline of basic human rights and the credibility of Ankara’s commitment to reforms.