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EU wields carrot and stick in its relations with Turkey




Charles Michel, President of the European Council, puts Turkey under surveillance until June 2021 (photo: Council of Europe)
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, puts Turkey under surveillance until June 2021 (photo: Council of Europe)
EU / TURKEY. Meeting in Brussels on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 March 2021, the members of the European Council blew hot and cold on the turbulent issue of their relations with Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey.

Based on a communication from the High Representative and the European Commission entitled "State of play regarding political, economic and trade relations between the EU and Turkey ", they underlined in their declaration: "We recall that a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey are in the strategic interest of the European Union".

The European Council welcomes "the recent de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean with the cessation of illegal drilling activities, the resumption of bilateral talks between Greece and Turkey and the forthcoming talks on the Cyprus issue under the auspices of the United Nations".

The Member States advocate building on "this recent more positive momentum", but are cautious about "engaging with Turkey in a gradual, proportionate and reversible manner with a view to strengthening cooperation in a number of areas of common interest and taking further decisions at the June European Council meeting".

In his letter of invitation to this meeting, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, had indicated "in a gradual, conditional and reversible manner". He is expected to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in April 2021.

"Turkey must refrain from new provocations"

The Council is therefore putting Turkey under observation and offering it a two-month reprieve during which it will continue to move step by step towards this country. It does, however, give a token of goodwill by asking the European Commission to "intensify talks with Turkey in order to remedy the difficulties currently encountered in the implementation of the customs union", mentioning possible "high-level dialogues on issues of mutual interest, such as public health, climate and the fight against terrorism, as well as on regional issues" with this country. On the other hand, the European Council invites the Commission to "present a proposal for continued funding for Syrian refugees in Turkey (editor's note: 3.6 million), as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and other parts of the region".
"If Turkey keeps a positive and moderate behaviour, the dialogue will be productive", Charles Michel assures.

All this remains conditional. "If Turkey does not move forward constructively or reverts to unilateral actions or provocations, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, we will, of course, suspend this cooperation," commented Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. The European Council also remains very clear on this subject, asking Ankara to "refrain from new provocations or unilateral actions contrary to international law". And it threatens to reaffirm "the European Union's determination, in the event of such actions, to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its Member States and to preserve regional stability".

 

Eric Apim


Friday, March 26th 2021



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