Amid controversies regarding the migrant crisis and human rights violations, Turkish President is coming to Zagreb.
Turkish President Erdogan will arrive later today to Croatia, an EU member state that has committed itself to accepting some of Syrian refugees in Turkey, as part of a controversial plan to curb illegal immigration into Europe. It is expected that the refugee crisis and the relations between Turkey and the EU, together with the strengthening of economic relations, will be the main topics of a meeting between Erdogan and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Tuesday afternoon, reports dnevnik.hr on April 26, 2016.
Croatia should in June receive the first 30 of about 500 refugees from the resettlement programme with Turkey, a country that has accepted about 2.2 million Syrians who have fled their country. Croatia should also soon pay its part of the European financial aid to Turkey, which will amount to 1.7 million euros this year. Croatian officials stress that they support the European course of Turkey and that the youngest member of the Union is ready to help with a transfer of its experience from the accession process.
Turkey began accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, at the same time as Croatia. However, only 14 of 33 negotiation chapters have been opened, and just one has been provisionally closed.
According to the agreement between Brussels and Ankara, all illegal migrants who arrive from Turkey to Greek islands should be returned to Turkey, and the EU has committed itself to accepting one Syrian refugee directly from Turkey for each returned migrant. The agreement reached in March should stop illegal immigration to Europe in exchange for financial support to Ankara and the abolition of visas for Turkish citizens.
Many critics have criticized the agreement given the troubling state of human rights in Turkey, and fearing that Ankara would return the refugees to Syria where the conflict continues. In the latest report of the European Parliament, Turkey is criticized over the state of human rights and media freedom. Turkey is currently prosecuting 1,850 cases of alleged insults against the President.
Erdogan said recently that the EU needs Turkey more than vice versa. “There are specific conditions. If the European Union does not take the necessary steps, does not fulfil its promises, Turkey will not implement the agreement”, warned Erdogan.
European Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday that “our freedoms, including freedom of expression, will not be a part of political bargaining with any partner. This message must also be heard by President Erdogan.”
During his two-day visit to Zagreb, Erdogan will meet with senior Croatian officials to discuss bilateral relations, in particular the strengthening of economic cooperation, and he will also participate in the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Islam in Croatia.
Both countries give great importance to the visit, as evidenced by the composition of the Turkish delegation. Ministers of justice, European affairs, economy, energy, culture and tourism will arrive in Zagreb, together with more than 90 business leaders who will participate in the economic forum.
On Wednesday, Erdogan will meet with Parliament Speaker Željko Reiner and Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković. In the afternoon, a gala ceremony will be held on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the recognition of Islam in Croatia. Erdogan will end his visit to Croatia with the opening of the Turkish Cultural Centre in downtown Zagreb. His visit will be accompanied by exceptional security measures and special traffic regulations.