Turkey, Estonia discuss EU ties, refugee crisis

Visit by Estonian leader — currently holding EU’s rotating presidency — could ‘revive’ relations, says Turkish PM

The prime ministers of Turkey and Estonia met on Wednesday for high-level talks in the capital Ankara, where the issue of a Turkey-EU refugee deal resurfaced.

At a joint news conference, Turkish premier Binali Yıldırım and Estonian leader Juri Ratas — whose country currently holds the rotating six-month EU presidency — said the two states — both NATO members — enjoyed good bilateral relations.

However, Yildirim said: “We have launched a program with the EU on the refugee crisis but this program doesn’t run at the desired speed,” and added that Turkey had received only €80 million ($9.3 million) out of a promised €3 billion ($3.5 billion) budget to help Syrian refugees.

Turkey became one of the first countries to “bear the difficulties and authority gap brought about by the civil war in Iraq and Syria,” Yildirim also said, recalling how over three million refugees had been sheltered in Turkey since 2011.

Ratas said he appreciated Turkey’s “magnificent” work in preventing a refugee influx into EU territory.

“The refugee crisis is a significant issue for the EU. This is a field that requires cooperation between EU member states and their neighbors,” he added.

Turkey’s EU membership bid was also discussed in the premiers’ meeting.

Yildirim said he expected Wednesday’s visit by Ratas would help renew Turkey’s EU ties.

“We are waiting for some steps to revive Turkey-EU relations. I hope that some concrete developments could happen under your [Estonia’s] EU presidency,” Yildirim said.