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Letter from the Ombudsman's Secretary-General to the Secretary-General of the Council concerning information provided by the Council to the public in relation to what is commonly referred to as the "EU-Turkey statement" (SI/4/2017/EA)

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Mr Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen

Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union

1048 Brussels


Strasbourg, 12/06/2017

Re: Information provided by the Council to the public in relation to what is commonly referred to as the “EU-Turkey statement” (SI/4/2017/EA)

Dear Mr Tranholm-Mikkelsen,

On 18 March 2016 a press release on what is commonly referred to as the “EU-Turkey statement” was published on the website shared by the European Council and the Council. In referring to the discussions with its Turkish counterpart and the action points upon which an agreement was reached, the text alternates between the terms “the European Union” and “the Members of the European Council”.

In its decisions of 28 February 2017, the General Court considered that the statement cannot be regarded as a measure adopted by the European Council, or by any other institution, body, office or agency of the European Union.

The Court also noted the “regrettably ambiguous terms” of what is commonly referred to as the EU-Turkey statement, as published by means of the press release of 18 March 2016. The Court found that it was in their capacity as Heads of State or Government of the Member States that the representatives of those Member States met with their Turkish counterpart.

The question of who is responsible for the agreement in question and who can be held to account for its compliance with the law and with fundamental rights obligations - whether the EU itself or solely Member States of the EU - is of great importance.

While the Ombudsman takes note of the European Council’s explanation to the Court that the reference to the EU is due to the emphasis on simplification of the words used for the general public in the journalistic context of a press release, she considers it important to provide accurate information. The authoritative source of information to the public about the agreement that was reached with Turkey on 18 March 2016 continues to be the aforementioned press release. Despite the Court’s decisions of over three months ago, the online version of the press release has not been corrected.[1] At the very least, one might expect a link to be provided to the Court decisions or to the related press release by the Court so that interested members of the public and affected parties are reliably informed about the status of what continues to be widely referred to as the “EU-Turkey agreement”. Although appeals have been brought against the above Court decisions, it would still be appropriate, in the meantime, to have the information on the website corrected.

I would therefore ask the Council to take appropriate action to ensure that the public is accurately informed, for example by reviewing the wording of the online press release and of any other material it may consider relevant.

I would be grateful if you would reply with the Council’s views on this matter by 31 July 2017, if possible. If any further information is required, please contact Ms Elpida Apostolidou (+32 2 284 18 76).

Yours sincerely,


Beate Gminder



[1] The page was last updated on 27/04/2016