In the light of sharing long-strained relationship due to disagreements over a number of issues including migration and energy, European Union and Turkey desire to have cordial and smooth relationship. Bilateral talks have been encouraged between the two as the EU foreign policy chief welcomes Turkish foreign minister to Brussels.
Being an official contender for EU membership in spite of the rigidity and tensions, Turkey is facing the major threat of economic sanctions by the bloc over a hydrocarbon clash with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. However, since the new year, a fairly good tone is viewed between Brussels and Ankara.
On Thursday while welcoming the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Brussels for genuine talks, the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell boasted about the improving ties. “We have seen an improvement in the overall atmosphere”, he said. He further added that intentions and declarations should be enforced into actions.
Following the quality improvement in the mood of both the sides, a video conference took place on 9th January between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ursula von der Leyen (head of European Commission). Both the leaders emphasized on friendly and bilateral relations and it’s significance for their future endeavours. Erdogan sent an invitation to Leyen and Charles Michel, head of European Council. To this, Cavusoglu expected a positive response, “It is, of course, important for there to be positive atmosphere in Turkey-EU ties, but in order for this to be sustainable, we must take concrete steps,”.
2021 FRESH RESTART TO EU-TURKEY TIES
The new year of 2021 is much viewed as a light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully harmonious for Ankara and Athens as they are all set to look into the disagreements. On 25th January a series of talks, exploratory in nature will take place in Istanbul between Erdogan and Macron after exchanging letters in which they mutually agreed on terms to resume talks and make up their relations.
After 60 rounds of vague and futile talks in the period of 14 years; negotiations between the two uneasy NATO neighbours were suspended in 2016. This meeting scheduled in this month between Greece and Turkey. As the previous year proved exceptionally difficult for Turkey-EU relations, further intensifying the already existing strained dispute between Turkey and Greece as well as Erdogan feuding with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
However, these plans to start a fresh and a series of discussions initiated after the disagreement about the Turkish exploration vessel namely Oruc Reis and the Turkish and Greek warships’ collision in August. Both the nations are at loggerheads and mutually exclusive on various areas including energy rights, air space, the status of some islands and the limits of their continental shelves. This is the point when their discrepancies led to a fledged conflict.
While on one side, it said that Ankara is in favour of resolving all the issues through the help of international law. All the seagoing boundary claims and naval matters of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration were repudiated by Turkey. Well as a response to this, EU on the other side jeopardized Ankara with sanctions and deterrence including on arms exports, many times since August in the previous year.
Though coiled by a deep desire to put penalty on Turkey for what they see as a galling oil and gas exploration by Turkish vessels, Greece and Cyprus were resolutely backed by France. But fellow member states of EU like Germany and Italy are disinclined to mandate any sanctions on Ankara. It was decided that EU leaders will have a take on the imposition of sanctions if required.
A series of Crisis
Being a huge destination of EU trade and commerce along with investment, Turkey also depends majorly on Brussels to stop refugees and migrants come into the bloc. Even then Turkey offers home to a big crowd of refugees, most of them from Syria who landed in the Greek islands, when in 2015 over one million people set foot in Europe. This has risen to a considerable political crisis. In order to end this refugee issue and their entrance in the bloc, the EU paid billions of euros in refugee support for Ankara. Turkey accommodates about 4 million refugees, out of which 70% are women and children. Also, a massive number of people found shelter in outside migrant and refugee camps.
On Thursday, Cavusoglu stated that he would discuss a joint “migration declaration” that is being proposed to Borrell by Turkey. Other subjects of tensions between them are democracy and illegal energy drillings. Both the nations have enjoyed a productive relationship in many domains for decades. However, in recent years relations have turned frosty as concerns mounted over Turkey’s military intervention in Syria, democracy, problem of refugee etc. They are now trying to come into a dialogue and improve their relationship.