17. 3. 201622:31

Comments of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on the meeting of the European Council

At the March meeting of the European Council, which takes place today and tomorrow, we will continue with the extraordinary summit between EU leaders with Turkey. The vast majority of refugees arrived in Europe over the past year via Turkey, and therefore I consider Turkey’s contribution to solving the migration crisis to be inevitable. With our European partners, we will talk about the final version of an agreement, which will provide for the accelerated return of all migrants from the Greek islands to Turkey. Part of the agreement should also be a mechanism for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Turkey. The EU should relocate one Syrian citizen from Turkey for each Syrian citizen returned to Turkey.

At the European Council, I will strive to ensure that the agreement with Turkey will not impose any new obligations on Member States in the field of relocation and resettlement. The priority of the Czech government is that the previously approved mechanism for resettlement and relocation is used to resettle Syrians in Turkey.

The Czech Republic is ready to discuss Turkey’s request for visa liberalization. However, it insists that Turkey must fulfill all of the conditions imposed on it by the previously approved plan for visa liberalization. In the conclusions of the European Council I will also like to propose that other associated countries are treated similarly to Turkey. In the context of discussions on Turkey, we will also support mentioning the need to respect human rights and freedom of speech in the conclusions.

Regarding other issues, external relations should also be discussed with EU leaders. In the case of discussion on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Czech Republic will propose and support mentioning in the conclusions of the European Council the release of the Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savčenková as surmised by the Minsk Agreement.

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic