An EU official Thursday assured that the EU will continue standing behind Turkey to manage the refugee challenge.
Addressing the 11th Ambassadors' Conference in the capital Ankara, the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, praised Turkey for fulfilling its humanitarian endeavor. "I would like to commend Turkey for hosting more than 3.6 million refugees. I know this is a huge challenge for your country," he said. According to Interior Ministry figures, the number of refugees in Turkey was 4.2 million in 2017 and has now reached 4.9 million. While 3.6 million Syrians are living in Turkey, more than 415,000 Syrians have been born in Turkey since the start of the civil war in 2011.
"Turkey as a candidate country for EU membership, is an indispensable partner and will always be a strategically important neighbor for the European Union," he said.
He said that the EU and Turkey are bonded by an inevitable geography, which is further strengthened by addressing mutual interests.
Avramopoulos said close cooperation was necessary, as he knew that Turkey will continue to face heavy migratory challenges. In 1963, Turkey first signed the Ankara Agreement that foresaw the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods as part of integration in the customs uni
on with the European Economic Community (EEC), the predecessor of the EU, acknowledging the final goal of membership.
After a long interim period, Turkey signed the European Constitution in 2004, leading to negotiations for full membership to be launched in 2005, when the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was enjoying its first term in power. However, negotiations stalled once again in 2007 due to objections to opening chapters by the Greek Cypriot admi
nistration on the divided island of Cyprus.