Thursday

1st Dec 2022

EU leaders grasp Turkey's olive branch

  • European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council president Charles Michel on Thursday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders have offered more refugee aid and customs perks to Turkey at a video-summit also attended by US president Joe Biden.

The European Commission was to come forward with "continuation of financing for Syrian refugees in Turkey" they said, after having already spent €6bn on the programme.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

And "the European Union is ready to engage with Turkey in a phased, proportionate, and reversible manner" they added on Thursday (25 March), mentioning modernisation of an EU-Turkey customs union.

They praised the fact Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had mended his ways.

"We welcome the recent de-escalation in the eastern Mediterranean through the discontinuation of illegal drilling activities, the resumption of bilateral talks between Greece and Turkey, and the forthcoming talks on the Cyprus problem," they said, referring to an old frozen conflict between Turkey and Cyprus.

But the EU also threatened "to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests" if Erdoğan went back to poor form.

The EU sanctions options include blacklisting of Turkish officials and entities and economic strikes, such as a ban on tourist services in Turkey, according to an internal paper seen by EUobserver.

The paper also said Turkey should make a "concrete" gesture of taking back 1,450 refugees who crossed to Greece to start the ball rolling on the new agenda.

"We really hope it will be possible to improve the relationship with Turkey, but at the same time ... it is important that Turkey keep a positive behaviour, a moderate behaviour," EU Council president Charles Michel told press on Thursday.

Both he and Commission president Ursula von der Leyen promised they would not throw human rights in Turkey under the bus for strategic reasons.

"Rule of law and democracy are absolutely key to any dialogue we have with Turkey," Michel said.

Von der Leyen "deplored" the fact Turkey recently walked out of an international treaty to stop violence against women, but she took the heat off Ankara by noting some EU states had still not joined it either.

"We call on all member states in the European Union to ratify the convention," she said, alluding to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia.

The EU summit, which focused on vaccines, had a feel-good factor when US president Joe Biden briefly joined the video-talks.

It was the first time an American president had done so in 11 years and it marked a symbolic return to the good old days after the turbulent years of Biden's predecessor, the anti-EU Donald Trump.

"America is back. And we are happy you are back," Michel said in his opening remarks to a smiling Biden on the screen.

"What we are seeing is [that] values of democracy and the rule of law are under threat again," Michel later told press, after the EU and US recently imposed new human-rights sanctions on China and Russia.

"More than ever now, the United States and the European Union have a responsibility for the generations to come," Michel added.

A White House statement said Biden "expressed his desire to work together on shared foreign policy interests, including China and Russia".

But Thursday's smiles masked points of disagreement.

The US, on Wednesday, threatened to use sanctions against EU firms if they completed a Russian gas pipeline to Germany called Nord Stream 2.

It is also wary of an EU investment pact with China, its growing superpower rival.

Merkel's 'sovereignty'

For all that, German chancellor Angela Merkel said there were "a large number of commonalities that we want to cultivate", with the US, listing China, Russia, and Turkey policy.

But the EU ought to be free to forge independent China-trade relations, she added.

"It's not just about economic interests, but also about living up to what we also call European sovereignty ... we also have our own interests," she said.

"There's a greater premium than at any time since I've been involved in these issues, on finding ways to work together, again," US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who was in Brussels on Thursday, also said after meeting Belgian foreign minister Sophie Wilmès.

"A basic tenet of the Biden-Harris administration is consulting with our friends [in the EU], early and often," he added, referring to US vice president Kamala Harris.

Von der Leyen: 'I felt alone as a woman'

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen blamed sexism for having been relegated to a sofa in Ankara during a meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the presence of European Council president Charles Michel.

Erdoğan orders out US and EU ambassadors

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ordered out the ambassadors of his top Nato allies and Western investors, in what his opponents called a reckless political stunt.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  2. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  3. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  4. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  5. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  6. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  7. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  8. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us