EU, Turkey to work on improving relations after tumultuous 2020

EU, Turkey to work on improving relations after tumultuous 2020

According to ALJAZEERA, the European Union and Turkey have pressed each other to take concrete steps in order to improve relations long strained by disagreements over a number of issues including energy and migration.

Turkey, which remains an official candidate for EU membership despite the tensions, is facing the threat of economic sanctions by the bloc over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean, but the mood music between Brussels and Ankara has improved since the new year.

“We have seen an improvement in the overall atmosphere,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday as he welcomed Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Brussels for talks.

“Intentions and announcements need to be translated into actions.”

The improved tone between the two sides follows a video conference between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on January 9 with both stressing the importance of the bilateral relationship.

Cavusoglu said he hoped von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the head of the European Council which represents the 27 EU member states, would visit Turkey after an invitation from Erdogan.

“It is, of course, important for there to be a positive atmosphere in Turkey-EU ties, but in order for this to be sustainable, we must take concrete steps,” Cavusoglu added.

Last year proved particularly difficult for Turkey-EU relations, with a flare-up in the longstanding dispute between Turkey and Greece and Erdogan feuding with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

But hopes have risen for a more harmonious 2021, with Ankara and Athens now set to address their disagreement at exploratory talks in Istanbul on January 25 and Macron and Erdogan having exchanged letters in which they agreed to resume talks aimed at mending ties.

This month’s meeting between Turkey and Greece will be the first since negotiations between the two uneasy NATO neighbours were suspended in 2016 after 60 fruitless rounds of talks stretching back 14 years.

Plans to restart discussions last year foundered after a disagreement about the Turkish seismic exploration vessel, Oruc Reis, deployed to disputed waters. The ship has since returned.