Monday

21st Jan 2019

EU ministers look for ways to appease Turkey

  • "We need to clarify what it is that what we want from Turkey and with Turkey," Slovak foreign minister Lajcak said (Photo: eu2016sk/Flickr)

EU foreign affairs ministers on Friday (2 September) signaled a willingness to ease tensions with Turkey after relations were damaged by a failed coup against president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July.

A meeting on Saturday with Turkey's Europe minister Omer Celik could also open the way to an agreement on visa liberalisation later this year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"I expect that after tomorrow's meeting we will help to improve, normalise the atmosphere between the EU and Turkey," sais Slovakia's Miroslav Lajcak, whose country currently chairs the council of the EU.

"Turkey is an important partner, we need to clarify what it is that what we want from Turkey and with Turkey," he told journalists before the meeting in Bratislava.

Since the coup and the widespread crackdown that followed, Ankara has accused the EU of not being supportive enough and Europeans have warned Turkish authorities against violations of human rights and the rule of law.

Erdogan has also threatened to scrap a migrant deal signed off in March if his country was not granted a visa-free regime by the end of October.

Lajcak expressed some kind of European mea culpa. He said that while visiting Ankara last week, he "could feel very strong emotions on the Turkish side that the EU reacted very slowly" to the attempted coup.

"We need to clean the atmosphere," a EU source told EUobserver, adding that Turkey is "too big to be ignored".

The diplomacy chiefs exchanged their views before meeting Celik on Saturday.

They held what the source said was a long and intense discussion on the issue and "nobody left the room even to go to the toilets".

'Clear attitude'

Before meeting Celik they had "to mentally prepare", the source said, and bridge differences between themselves, with some countries holding a harder line towards Turkey.

The Austrian minister Sebastian Kurz, in particular, repeated that his country wanted to suspend accession talks with Turkey.

"The EU and Turkey can intensively cooperate on economy and other issues, but I don't see Turkey as a member of the European Union," he said before the meeting.

"We consider that purges and attempt to muzzle dissent are a wrong path. The EU must show a clear attitude," he said.

Kurz's compatriot and EU neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn said the EU had "more important topics of discussion than accession" and that focussing on that issue "creates an artificial discussion".

After both migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and European Parliament president Matin Schulz visited Ankara on Thursday and said that the EU and Turkey should be able to find a solution to grant Turkish citizens a visa-free regime, some EU officials said Friday that a compromise was at hand.

"There are signs on both sides that we want to find compromise," the EU source said.

The official said that despite public threat, Turkey did not really want to scrap the migrant deal.



'Common interest'

He also said that while Turkish government was "pushing aggressively" to get visa liberalisation without changing an anti-terror law as required by the EU, it was showing a readiness to find a solution "to outline a way to fulfill" EU criteria.

A solution could be that Turkey makes a commitment to change the controversial law so that the EU says the benchmarks are met.

Asked by EUobserver, French minister Jean-Marc Ayrault did not comment about that possibility but said that it was EU and Turkish "common interest that things make progress".

After weeks of tensions and with a Turkish government increasingly difficult to deal with, the EU source admitted that the EU would have to take a possible Turkish commitment at face value.

"What leverage do we have?," he asked, implying a negative answer.

Turkey purge intensifies, amid EU visa demands

Ankara has refused to amend its terror laws in line with EU preconditions for a visa-waiver pact, but Turkey says it will scrap its migrant deal with the EU if visas are not lifted.

Ankara and Kremlin in charm offensive

Turkey's president Erdogan met with his Russian counterpart Putin in St. Petersburg. The first visit for Erdogan since last month's military coup.

Turkey sends EU mixed message on migration

Turkey's EU minister said in Bratislava his country will continue to respect the migration deal, but would not do more until it gets visa-free EU travel.

EU willing to keep contact with Turkey

The European Commission said it was "gravely concerned" by arrests of political leaders, but is not considering suspending accession talks.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us