NEWS CENTER - The EU foreign ministers have gathered in Brussels for their first face-to-face talks since the coronavirus pandemic began. One of the topics top of the agenda is the EU relations with Turkey.
European Union (EU) foreign ministers on Monday criticized Turkey for several reasons, including energy exploration in disputed Mediterranean waters and changing the status of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque in their first face-to-face meeting in months. A press release issued on Sunday by the foreign ministry said that the issue of Turkey will be the focus of the meeting and that the EU foreign ministers will be holding a strategic discussion in light of the developments in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean, amongst other topics. The ministers discuss taking a tougher stand on Ankara though no immediate measures are expected.
"Relations with Turkey are not especially good at the moment," Borrell said ahead of the talks. “When I see now what is happening with Hagia Sophia, that is a blow,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said. "A government that fights against its own human rights activists as terrorists is a government that disrespects democracy and its own people," added Asselborn.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said that the movements in the Mediterranean were “a reason for worrying” for the 27-nation bloc, but insisted that human rights and democracy issues would also be taken up during the regular monthly meeting.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell was in Turkey last week where he also discussed Ankara’s disputes with Greece and Cyprus over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean region. Turkey has dispatched warship-escorted vessels to drill for gas in an area where Cyprus insists it has exclusive rights. The Turkish government has said it’s acting to protect its interests in the area's natural resources and those of Turkish Cypriots.