Ljubljana – Slovenia’s positions on issues relevant to EU-Turkey relations and its EU presidency priorities topped the agenda aside from bilateral relations as Foreign Minister Anže Logar hosted his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ljubljana on Tuesday.
Addressing a joint press conference after talks, the two ministers noted the visit coincides with the 10th anniversary since the countries signed a strategic partnership agreement.
They dedicated a great part of their meeting to plans to boost bilateral cooperation, in particular direct investment, and to balance bilateral goods trade.
Cavusoglu noted the volume of annual trade currently tops 2 billion dollars, but it is strongly imbalanced in favour of Turkey.
He thanked Slovenia for the trust placed in Turkish companies, which have recently won several infrastructure tenders here.
Meanwhile, Logar hailed the fact that that the Turkish flag carrier Turkish Airlines has kept direct links between the countries going despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
Slovenia’s presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of the year ranked prominently with Cavusoglu saying that Turkey happily supported the presidency priorities set out to him by Logar.
Logar pledged for Slovenia to make the effort to improve EU-Tukey dialogue and make progress on “open dossiers” and to “play a very constructive role”, including in concrete issues such as upgrading the customs union and visa liberalisation.
EU-Turkey relations became highly topical after the 2015 refugee crisis, in response to which the EU stroke a deal with Turkey that has never been fully implemented and is in need of an overhaul.
The relationship has become strained in recent years and in a bid to reset it, EU leaders in March this year offered Ankara a gradual enhancing of cooperation in a number of fields of shared interest, but with certain strings attached.
They expressed willingness to discuss modernising the customs union with Turkey and to provide further financial support to help tackle the refugee issue in Turkey.
In April this year, a visit by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel to Ankara was marred by a diplomatic gaffe when Von der Leyen was relegated to sit in a sofa.
Cavusoglu today again attributed the responsibility for the incident to the EU side, while asserting that April talks were very open and candid, and that the EU-Turkey atmosphere was much better than it appeared in the end.
The EU leaders made a clear message to Ankara that human rights were not negotiable. Commenting on that, Cavusoglu said Turkey valued human rights highly and implemented major reforms in that respect.
He repeated that human rights were also being violated in EU member countries and that everyone should work on the issue. He noted Islamophobia and attacks on minorities and migrants.
Commenting on Turkey’s exiting the Istanbul Convention on women’s rights, he noted that some EU members have not signed the document and many others, Slovenia included, expressed their reservations.
Also high on the agenda today were topical regional issues, including Libya, Syria and Afghanistan, and in particular the Western Balkans.
Cavusoglu said Slovenia and Turkey shared interests and concerns for the region and their main interest was the region’s stability and prosperity, a more inclusive politics and overcoming divisions along ethnic and other lines.
The Turkish foreign minister also met President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Janez Janša.
The prime minister’s office said in a brief announcement that the talks revolved around bilateral relations, EU presidency preparations, the situation in the east Mediterranean and other current issues.