Prime Minister Jüri Ratas assured Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and President President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on Wednesday that Turkey is an important strategic partner for Estonia and that both Estonia and the EU wish to see Turkey remain on the European course.
The meeting with Yıldırım focused on Estonian-Turkish relations. "Relations between Estonia and Turkey are excellent and friendly," Ratas said according to a government press release. "Our relations could be even closer, especially in the economy. I am glad that there are close air connections between Estonia and Turkey and Turkish investments in Estonia are increasing, however there is certainly room for improvement in various fields."
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister visited a refugee camp near the border of Gaziantep Province and Syria. Ratas noted that as a former mayor, he understands well the importance of international cultural and economic ties at the local level. "For example, Gaziantep company Akinal Senetik Tekstil decided to invest €20 million in the factory located in Loo this spring," he highlighted. Gaziantep, the sixth largest city in Turkey, is a sister city of Tartu, Estonia's second largest city.
Ratas' meeting with Yıldırım and Erdoğan focused mainly on migration-related topics, in particular the performance of the refugee agreement signed between the EU and Turkey last year, which stopped the flow of migration to Europe through Turkey. Ratas recognized the Turkish heads of state and government for Turkey's cooperation with Europe and their efforts in establishing a temporary living environment for refugees. The EU has provided €3 billion in aid to Turkey for assisting refugees there.
The meeting also involved broader EU-Turkish relations. Ratas told Erdoğan that Estonia continues to export the expansion of the EU. "The EU's door must remain open to those who share European values, respect the state based on the rule of law and fundamental rights as well as meet all accession conditions," said the Estonian prime minister. "Turkey is an important strategic partner nt only for Estonia but all of the EU, and Brussels likewise wants to continue negotiations with Turkey despite differences. At the same time, we expect that Turkey improve its relations with EU member states."
Ratas also discussed defense cooperation with the the Turkish president. "We are allies in NATO, and we assess security threats in the European neighborhood, but also in the world, similarly," he said. "In the fight against terrorism, we need to pay even more attention to counteraction in social media. We should echange even more information and be able to react to threats more quickly."
Ratas returned to Estonia from his two-day working visit to Turkey on Wednesday night.
Editor: Aili Vahtla