The European Union on Tuesday praised Turkey for hosting more than 3.5 million refugees.
In a statement, the EU’s General Affairs Council commended Turkey’s significant efforts in hosting and addressing their needs.
The move came as the council gathered in Luxembourg and released a statement on the EU membership process of six countries including Turkey, Montenegro and Serbia.
It described Turkey as a “key partner” and reaffirmed “the importance it attaches to EU relations with Turkey”.
The council “remains committed to maintaining an open and frank dialogue, to addressing common challenges and to cooperating in essential areas of joint interest such as migration, counterterrorism, energy, transport, the economy and trade”, the statement said.
“The continued implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, which reduces irregular and dangerous crossings [by migrants] and saves lives in the Aegean Sea, is in the interest of both sides and remains crucial,” it added.
Turkey hosts nearly 3.6 million Syrian refugees, according to a refugee association’s data.
In March 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal aimed at stemming the irregular migration flow through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers. The deal also aimed to improve conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The statement said Turkey’s “constructive cooperation” on the migration crisis has “delivered clear results”.
“The council reiterates that continued implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and continued support for partners along the Western Balkans route is required,” it added.
“The EU will continue its financial support and technical assistance to strengthen cooperation in this field, including through the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey,” according to the statement.
Meanwhile, the council also underlined the “continued need to focus” on the rule of law and fundamental rights in Turkey.
“Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union,” the statement said.
“Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen,” it added.
Turkey applied for membership in the European Economic Community, a precursor to the EU, in 1987. It became eligible for EU membership in 1997 and accession talks began in 2005.