Friday

15th Dec 2017

Opinion

The EU and Turkey: Stronger together

  • "We are united in seeing the accession process as a vital framework for cooperation" (Photo: svenwerk)

At a time when the EU faces economic challenges and continuing instability in the Middle East, our relationship with Turkey matters more than ever.

Last week saw the 50th EU/Turkey Association Council, which demonstrated the need to work together to promote our shared prosperity, security and values.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In these tough economic times, increasing trade with Turkey offers opportunities for EU businesses. With a GDP growth rate of 8.5 percent last year, the second fastest in the G20 after China, Turkey is now the EU’s fifth largest export market.

Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe run businesses worth €40 billion, employing half a million people. In sectors like aviation, automobiles and electronics, our economies are increasingly integrated.

Turkey is well placed to become an energy hub, with both sides benefiting from projects to build the necessary infrastructure, including development of the Southern gas corridor.

The commercial relationship is strong, but could be stronger. While EU-Turkey trade has grown steadily, Turkey's trade with other regions has grown even faster.

This is partly a symptom of the wider shift of economic power to Asia, but also reflects problems with the EU-Turkey customs union and other trade restrictions that prevent our commercial relationship from achieving its full potential.

Removing these restrictions should form an important part of wider efforts to boost economic growth, building on the recent G20 Summit and on the European Council later this week.

We welcome the very recent agreement on a path towards visa liberalisation, linked to broader co-operation on migration. This has the potential to promote trade, combat illegal immigration and support wider people to people contacts.

Here, signature by Turkey of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement would be a crucial step on the way towards fulfilling Turkish citizens' aspirations to travel more freely in Europe.

As the dialogue between the EU and Turkey on mobility and security grows, we hope to see further concrete results. In this framework, we hope Turkey will extend visa free travel to EU member states.

Reinforcing collective security

The last few months have again demonstrated Turkey's importance in supporting stability in the Middle East and beyond. Istanbul has hosted a series of key meetings to discuss Syria, Iran, Somalia and terrorism.

Turkey is playing a critical and constructive role in increasing international pressure on the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria and is a crucial partner in building security in Afghanistan.

Turkey offers its neighbours an inspirational example of a secular and democratic country with a growing middle class. At the same time, the EU remains the largest trading partner for most of these countries and a vital source of investment and ideas.

The many priorities the EU and Turkey share in this region make it essential that we continue to deepen our co-operation. Our meeting with foreign minister Davutoglu in the margins of the March foreign affairs council, initiated by EU foreign affairs head Cathy Ashton, was a good first step.

We should build on this through further dialogue on regional issues like the Western Balkans and Southern Caucasus and joint projects in the Middle East and North Africa. The EU and Turkey should be partners in shaping events. Working together we can achieve more and send a stronger message to encourage transformation.

Sharing common values

Turkey’s ability to inspire reform in its neighbourhood is linked to its EU accession process. The Turkey of today is radically transformed from the country that applied to join the EU a quarter of a century ago.

Just as the EU helped consolidate democracy across Central Europe and continues to promote democracy in Eastern Europe, the accession process has played a powerful role in supporting Turkey's reforms in areas such as civilian control of the military and the independence of the judiciary.

Significant results have been achieved but, as Turkey itself recognises, reform remains a work in progress. Improvements are needed in the areas of freedom of expression, women’s rights and protection of minorities.

The work on a new constitution presents a crucial opportunity to address such issues.

We encourage Turkey to maintain an inclusive constitutional reform process and welcome the recent discussions between Prime Minister Erdogan and opposition leader Kilicdaroglu, including on how to address the Kurdish issue and the menace of PKK terrorism.

Turkey's constructive contribution to a Cyprus settlement and its willingness to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels remain key. Progress is also needed on the important issue of EU-Nato co-operation, where we encourage Turkey to show flexibility.

Reinvigorating the accession process

Just as Turkey must meet its obligations to the EU, so the EU must meet its obligations to Turkey.

Commissioner Stefan Fuele has led the way with his "positive agenda" for EU-Turkey relations, designed to support the accession process and strengthen practical co-operation. He has our full support.

We represent countries that have not always shared the same view on how to realise Turkey's European perspective.

But we are united in seeing the accession process as a vital framework for cooperation and a powerful stimulus for reform.

Injecting new momentum into the process will benefit both the EU and Turkey. That must be our ambition in the months ahead.

Nikolay Mladenov, Urmas Paet, Erkki Tuomioja, Guido Westerwelle, Janos Martonyi, Giulio Terzi di Sant'agata, Edgars Rinkevics, Audronius Azubalis, Radoslaw Sikorski, Paulo Portas, Andrei Marga, Miroslav Lajcak, Karl Erjavec, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Carl Bildt and William Hague are the Foreign Ministers of Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK

Being fair to Turkey is in the EU's interest

Serious efforts to reform Turkey's border could quickly translate into a dramatic fall in illegal migration. But Ankara expects fair EU treatment on visa liberalisation in return, write Gerald Knaus and Alexandra Stiglmayer.

Turkish PM moots reinstating death penalty

EU candidate country Turkey may reinstate capital punishment for people convicted of terrorism even though a total ban is required for joining the European Union.

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  2. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  3. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  4. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  5. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont
  6. French central bank lifts 2017 growth forecast
  7. EU leaders set to move Brexit talks on to next stage
  8. EU leaders confirm support for two-state solution

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  2. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states
  3. EU asylum debate reopens old wounds
  4. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  5. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  6. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  7. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  8. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  6. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  8. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  9. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  10. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  12. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'