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EU's Timmermans says bloc needs to engage Turkey more

'If Turkey wants to come closer to EU so badly, let them prove they can,' European Commission's first vice-president says

BRUSSELS-The European Union should do more to engage with Turkey that would allow it to improve the country's human rights situation and media freedom, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said Thursday. In remarks made during his address at the European Parliament, Timmermans said the distance between the EU and Turkey was not decreasing, but increasing following the refugee deal.

 

"If they [Turkey] want to come close to the European Union so badly, let them prove that they can," he said.

 

He said the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey had reduced the number of people getting drowned at sea as they try to reach Greek islands from Turkish shores, he said.

 

"We should not forget that the deal with Turkey decreased people's pain," he added.

 

Under the EU-Turkey deal to ease the refugee crisis facing Europe, EU leaders agreed to cut visa requirements for Turkish citizens and accelerate Turkey's EU membership bid.

 

The deal also provides a €6 billion ($6.73 billion) aid package to help Ankara deal with an estimated 2.7 million Syrian refugees it is hosting.

 

It also aims to "share the burden'' of the refugee crisis based on a formula that "for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states."

 

By Hasan Esen

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