Tuesday

21st May 2019

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.

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

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

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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.

Europe's far-right - united in diversity?

Europe's far-right is set to rise in the next European Parliament election. This vote will not yet allow the populists to build a majority. But it may become another milestone in their process of changing European politics.

The ECB Song Contest?

One can't help feeling that the race to succeed Mario Draghi as president of the European Central Bank has taken on the flavor of the upcoming final round of the Eurovision Song Contest.

EU must hold Qatar to account for World Cup deaths

The EU has a unique opportunity to push its labour rights agenda in the Gulf state, with the tournament throwing the country's dismal record on migrant workers firmly into the spotlight.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden Democrat MEP ousted for revealing sex harassment
  2. 80% of Erasmus students find job within three months
  3. September elections in Austria after Strache scandal
  4. Swiss voters approve tighter gun controls in line with EU
  5. Report: May's fourth Brexit vote a 'retread' of old ideas
  6. Turkey insists on right to drill for oil off Cyprus coast
  7. Anti-Salvini banners become new trend in Italy
  8. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us