Web Desk March 30, 2021

Last week, the European Council opened what could be a new chapter in EU-Turkey relations. EU leaders are ready to engage on important avenues of cooperation including the modernization of the Customs Union, the relaunching of high-level dialogues and people-to-people contacts, plus strengthened cooperation on migration management, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell noted in this article entitled “EU-Turkey relations: the need to build bridges”, APA reports.

 

This comes after a very complicated year, when our relations reached a low point, with unprecedented levels of tension. Nevertheless, towards the end of 2020, Turkey’s authorities started communicating their interest in re-engaging with the EU. Negative rhetoric was substantially toned down and actions contrary to the interests of EU member states in the Eastern Mediterranean were halted.

 

The situation remains fragile, but the EU welcomes these forthcoming developments and gestures on the part of Turkey and has responded by extending its hand. Indeed, the EU has a strategic interest in the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey. And this is equally true for Turkey. The EU is by far Turkey’s number one import and export partner, as well as source of investment. Looking at the latest pre-pandemic figures, we see €69.8 billion of Turkey’s exports directed towards the EU, and €58.5 billion of its foreign direct investment (FDI) coming from the EU. More than 5.5 million Turkish citizens are living in EU member states, and according to Eurobarometer 61% of Turkish citizens look at the EU as an actor that counts in the world. And with its security and defence anchored within NATO, it seems difficult to believe that Turkey could realistically envisage better options than pursuing a European path.

 

EU leaders have stressed the need for a phased and proportionate, but also reversible approach. Courage and determination, but also flexibility and understanding, are necessary to redress our relationship in a sustainable manner. Some of the pending issues have been entangled in decade-long disagreements and conflicts. However, one key difference distinguishes today’s efforts in finding solutions from those of the past: there is a heightened consciousness of how old disputes deeply affect security interests of the European Union. They can no longer be considered just bilateral matters between Turkey and some member states.

 

Turkey is an important regional power and its historical destiny could well be to join the rest of Europe in the unique peace project that we are building under the banner of the European Union. At a moment when strategic polarisation seems to be resurfacing around the world, the strengthening of a European democratic pillar that includes Turkey could be a key balancing element. This is not a given, but the European Council has offered a possible bridge.

 

We now have to build this bridge and I believe we can do this. With political clear choices and commitment from all sides. On our side, the EU is ready to invest the required efforts. If Turkey is equally willing to do so, and underlines its more positive rhetoric with respective actions, we can continue to move from de-escalation to building a mutually beneficial agenda.

 

Source: Azeri-Press News Agency

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