Monday

21st Aug 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 and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  4. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  6. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  7. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  8. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  10. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  11. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead