EU open to migration talks with Turkey, envoy says

Published 06.01.2020 19:31
Updated 07.01.2020 13:18

Turkey is a candidate country and key partner for the EU, Croatia's envoy to the EU said Monday.

Permanent Representative Irena Andrassy was speaking at a news conference on behalf of the rotating presidency of the EU Council, which is to be held by Croatia for the first six months of 2020.

Underlining the EU's willingness to advance discussions on migration with Ankara, Andrassy noted, however, that other geostrategic and security issues in the Middle East could also affect the council's agenda on migration.

With the Croatian presidency's motto, "Strong Europe in a world of challenges," Andrassy pledged to direct efforts on strengthening security outside as well as inside the bloc.

She said the agenda could also be dominated by the recent rise in tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Andrassy announced that the EU foreign ministers would meet to discuss recent events in the coming days, but declined to comment on the EU's plans on de-escalating the situation in the region.

The European Commission is expected to present a new plan to reform the EU's migration system in a few months, and the Croatian presidency is also working on an overarching document to reinforce the internal security of the EU.

One of the main challenges will be to strike a new deal with Turkey on migration. By the end of 2019, the EU fully mobilized and paid half of the promised aid of 6 billion euros for refugees in Turkey. A deal reached with Ankara in 2016 supports Turkey's efforts to host 3.5 million Syrian refugees by financing projects in education, health care, infrastructure and economic development.

The EU Council is the main decision-making body in the EU and is composed of government ministers from every member state. The Croatian presidency will chair meetings, holding more than 1,400 at various levels in Croatia during the country's presidency.

Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds force, was killed in a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad's airport Friday.

Soleimani's slaying marked a dramatic escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have often been at a fever pitch since President Donald Trump chose in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw Washington from a nuclear pact that world powers struck with Tehran.

Croatia recently witnessed a change of president following the second round of the presidential election on Jan. 5.

The conservative party's candidate, outgoing President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, was beaten Sunday by liberal opposition challenger and former prime minister, Zoran Milanovic.

Milanovic won 53% of the votes, while Grabar Kitarovic had 47%. Croatia's state election authorities formally confirmed Milanovic's victory Monday.

The loss of the presidency is seen as a major blow for the ruling party, which has been a dominant political force in Croatia since the country's 1991 independence from Yugoslavia. It also marks a rare triumph of a leftist politician vying for a top post in populist-dominated Central Europe.

Sunday's vote was held just days after Croatia's conservative government took over the European Union's rotating presidency for the first time since joining the bloc in 2013. Croatia will preside over Britain's divorce from the EU and the start of post-Brexit talks.

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