Relations between Turkey and the European Union are perhaps at one of the most strained points in history. After months of high tensions, namely for the situation in Eastern Mediterranean and at the border with Greece, now it seems to be space for a new beginning in bilateral relations.
Although some embarrassing misunderstanding during the visit in Turkey by EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, at the beginning of April, that moment represented an important signal of EU willingness to relaunch relations with its big eastern neighbour. EU-Turkey relations have found new momentum with the initiatives to restart engagement after months of tension between the parties.
Since Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 it has not given up on the goal despite the resistance and unilateral rejection it has faced, and the tensions’ peak in the past months. Nevertheless, President von der Leyen and Michel managed to resume talks with Erdogan in Ankara.
Erdogan has put his dispute with the EU member states Greece and Cyprus over gas reserves and maritime borders on hold for the time being. In return, the EU abstained to impose sanctions and is offering negotiations to modify the 25-year-old Customs Union with Turkey. This choice was taken as the EU needs the Turkey support to deal with the migration waves from Middle East and Asia.
Turkey, in turn, needs reasonable working ties with the EU, its largest trading partner. “The EU’s strategic interest remains a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and a mutually beneficial and positive relationship with Turkey”, said Michel after meeting Erdogan in Ankara on 6th of April.
“We have told President Erdogan that the EU is ready to put a concrete and positive agenda on the table, based on three pillars: economic cooperation, migration, and people-to-people contacts and mobility. Our engagement will be progressive, proportional and reversible. And we hope Turkey will seize this window of opportunity”, he added.
Despite this scenario, EU and Turkey keep on being distant from the point of view of their basic values. And even the “Sofagate” happened during Von der Leyen’s visit to Ankara highlighted this crucial problem.
“The seating arrangement debate that occurred following the visit of the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission to our country has no connection with being either European or a woman,” said Tanju Bilgic, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson. And according to him, nor did it have any connection with the Istanbul Convention (the pact on protecting women Turkey withdrew from last month).
According to several members of the European Parliament, all aspects of the EU’s relationship with Turkey should introduce the question of democratic conditionality.“The Council is obliged by our treaties to stand for our values. This is not only the role of the Parliament, this is the role of any European institution to stand for our values. And in relations with Turkey, the Council has to introduce these aspects in any document,” socialist MEP Nacho Sanchez Amor told “Euractiv”.
Many members of the EU Parliament stressed that Turkey’s lack of political will to carry out the reforms assumed in the accession process, and its failure to address the serious concerns on the rule of law and fundamental rights, have negatively affected the accession process.
The stalemate on the accession process represents inevitably a decisive break in the long lasting relations between Turkey and EU, that with Erdogan in power has been reduced for many aspects to mere subsistence without any ambition of real progress.
- 20 September 2021
- 19 September 2021
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