The European Union needs to establish a “new kind of partnership” with Turkey both in terms of economic cooperation and their joint handling of migration, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said in an interview published by daily Magyar Nemzet on Monday.
Várhelyi noted his visit to Afghanistan last week for talks on efforts to prevent a new migration wave out of that country.
“One key difference from the situation in 2015 is that right now it’s still not too late to prevent a crisis,” Várhelyi said. “But this requires us to take the right steps, learn from the lessons of 2015 and concentrate on prevention.”
Other differences compared with 2015, he said, were that Turkey had strengthened the protection of its borders, but also the challenge the Afghanistan crisis presented to Turkey and Europe.
The current crisis “has shown that there is no other way but to work together with Ankara”, Várhelyi said.
He added, at the same time, that the EU also needed to boost cooperation with the Western Balkan countries on the issue of migration. The commissioner said he had recently held talks with the leaders of all the Western Balkan states that are taking in migrants and highlighted the security aspects of immigration.
the Afghanistan crisis had also demonstrated “the serious consequences of not being strong and consistent enough in our geopolitical decisions”.
“Let’s imagine what would happen if the accession process of our Western Balkan partners were drawn out even further and — for some geopolitical reason — what ends up happening is not what we had promised,” Várhelyi said. “And geographically, the Western Balkans is much closer to us than Afghanistan. This means Europe’s priority must be to integrate this region.”
As regards the EU-Western Balkans summit scheduled for October, the commissioner said he looked forward to seeing which parts of the EU’s economic development plans for the region could start getting implemented. “The aim is to support long-term stability and peace in that region,” he said.
Concerning the accession process of Albania and North Macedonia, Varhelyi said both countries were meeting all criteria for beginning the accession talks.
On Serbia, he said it was up to EU member states whether almost all accession chapters could be opened before the end of the year.