Foreign minister discusses Turkey with EU counterparts

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Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Marko Mumm / Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Yesterday, March 22, Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Reform) attended the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, where the focus was on the European Union's relations with Turkey and the Southern Neighborhood. They also discussed the European Union's policy on Russia, support for Georgia, as well as the situation in Myanmar and Venezuela.

The meeting included an exchange of views with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. The ministers also adopted a set of sanctions under the EU global human rights sanctions regime, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports.

The foreign ministers discussed EU relations with Turkey. Foreign Minister Liimets said that Turkey was a strategic partner for the union, adding it was necessary to keep the communication channels open while maintaining solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. "The EU is ready to continue cooperating with Turkey in the framework of economic and trade relations on the condition that Turkey fulfils their obligations to implement reforms, including improving its track-record on human rights and rule of law, and continues to de-escalate the situation in the eastern Mediterranean."

Speaking about the Southern Neighbourhood, referring primarily to the south shore of the Mediterranean, Liimets said that the "more for more" principle was the right one, one which entails the EU providing incentives to the southern partners in their reform efforts. "Our aim should be to build up a value-based partnership," Liimets added. "We must find ways of helping the Southern Neighborhood meet the EU's climate and digital goals and increase resilience. It is also crucial to address the root causes of migration, and diversify and reinforce supply chains."

A few weeks ago, in response to the case of imprisoned Russian Federation leader Alexei Navalny, the ministers adopted sanctions against four Russian individuals responsible for arrests and repressions. The ministers now adopted additional restrictive measures against 11 individuals and four entities from six countries: China, North Korea, Libya, South Sudan, Eritrea and Russia.

"The EU's condemnation of human rights violations should be unequivocal. The sanctions are a tool for sending a clear response to serious violations and creating broader political pressure to make sure the violations end," Foreign Minister Liimets said.

The individuals subject to sanctions are no longer allowed to travel to the EU, while their assets in the EU have been frozen.

"It is important for EU sanctions to be based on international law and rule of law. The regime allows for exceptions to provide humanitarian aid," Liimets said.

During the discussion with Michelle Bachelet, Liimets said that Estonia, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, would focus on grave human rights violations across the world. 

"The past year has brought a new wave of grave human rights violations also here in Europe. Estonia prioritizes supporting the civil society of Belarus. Brutal human rights violations in Belarus and Russia cannot be ignored," Minister Liimets said. "The EU must stay united and principled. We must also increase our support to the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries and propose enhanced cooperation to the partners interested in closer relations with the EU."

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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