The European Commission welcomes Turkey’s constructive stance on many bilateral issues, according to a report prepared by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy released on Monday, as the report noted that the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and other issues still pose a threat to ties with the country.
Since last December, Turkey has shown a calmer, more constructive stance on various issues, including its bilateral relations with several EU member states. These are positive and welcome steps forward, said the joint communication titled State of play in EU-Turkey political, economic and trade relations, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has further enhanced co-operation between Turkey and the EU.
The EU needs to come up with a number of possible areas for co-operation to enable a progressive approach in order to further improve the current momentum, the report said, stressing that the bloc needs more time to judge whether Turkey ‘s positive approach is stable and reliable.
The report went on to list a number of suggestions, which included a more effective and mutually beneficial implementation of the Turkey-EU 2016 Migrants Agreement, strengthening already substantial economic relations, including the modernization and expansion of the current Turkey-EU Customs Union.
In March 2016, Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement to reduce the number of migrants taking the dangerous Aegean Sea route to Europe and find a solution to the influx of migrants going to EU countries.
Under the agreement, Turkey was promised 6 billion euros ($ 6.77 billion) in financial assistance to be used by Ankara to fund projects for Syrian migrants. However, Turkey did not undertake the difficult task of tightening the growing migration from Syria only for the sake of financial assistance but also demanded visa liberalization for Turkish citizens; likewise, the customs union had to be updated. Turkish authorities say almost five years have passed since the agreement was signed and that it needs an update in line with current conditions.
This would also provide a guiding framework for economic reforms in Turkey. EU member states should agree on negotiating directives and authorize the Commission to open negotiations on this modernization, provided Turkey takes concrete steps to address current trade irritants, the report said.
Keeping the channels of communication open is beneficial – not least to support Turkey’s economic and sectoral reform commitments. Previously suspended high-level dialogues on economics, energy, transport, political developments, foreign and security policy, and initiated on other new topics, e.g. green agreement / climate, internal security, interfaith relations and culture, the report added.
Another suggestion was to further increase the contacts one by one to build trust by holding EU programs like Erasmus +, Horizon Europe and more.
The year 2020 proved particularly difficult for relations between Turkey, which remains an official candidate for EU and European Union membership, as tensions rose over maritime zones and drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.
EU leaders during a meeting in Brussels on December 10th decided to draw up a list of Turkish intentions to sanction what they described as Ankara’s unilateral actions and provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ahead of the summit, Greece called for additional sanctions, an EU arms embargo on Turkey and the suspension of the Turkey-EU customs union, but during the discussions, a majority of European leaders opposed tougher economic sanctions, opting for a more lenient approach. creating space for a positive agenda.
Turkey has the longest history with the union and the longest negotiation process. The country signed an association agreement with the predecessor of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1964, which is usually considered the first step to eventually becoming a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Turkey had to wait until 1999 to be granted candidate status. For the start of negotiations, however, Turkey had to wait for another six years, until 2005, a uniquely lengthy process compared to the other candidates.
At the head of the slow negotiations, another challenge threatened the rise of Turkey in the union when in 2016 the Glenist Terrorist Group (FET) attempted a coup, forcing the country to declare a state of emergency. Dissatisfied with the move, the European Parliament on November 24, 2016, stated that it would temporarily suspend negotiations, which has kept the process in a deadlock ever since.
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