European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan next week.
The pair will travel to Turkey on April 6, Michelâ€™s spokesman Barend Leyts said Monday. The trip comes after EU leaders last week agreed to relaunch cooperation with Ankara on migration and trade, albeit in a â€œphased, proportionate and reversibleâ€Â manner.
Relations between the EU and Turkey, a candidate for membership, had become increasingly strained in recent years as the Turkish government stepped up its crackdown on freedoms, sent ships into waters internationally recognized as belonging to Cyprus and Greece, became embroiled in rows with various EU governments and issued threats â€”Â eventually realized last year â€” to open its borders and let migrants cross freely into the bloc.
In recent months, however, ErdoÄŸan has opted for a softer tone, promising a domestic â€œreform agendaâ€ on human rights and freedoms. Tensions between Turkey and Greece have been easing as well.
At last weekâ€™s EU summit, leaders decided to look at ways to keep alive the 2016 migration pact with Turkey and â€œwork on a mandateâ€ to modernize the blocâ€™s customs union with Ankara. The latter has been a key Turkish demand for years.
In Turkey, meanwhile, the governmentâ€™s crackdown is gathering speed, prompting NGO Human Rights Watch to warn last week that ErdoÄŸan was â€œdismantling human rights protections and democratic norms â€¦Â on a scale unprecedented in the 18 years he has been in office.â€
Earlier this month, ErdoÄŸan removed Turkey from the Istanbul Convention â€” a Council of Europe treaty aimed at protecting women from violence â€”Â by presidential decree, sparking protests that are ongoing. At the same time, state prosecutors have taken steps toward banning the pro-Kurdish Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, currently the third-largest group in parliament.