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European Union leaders in Turkey to ease tensions

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After months of tension, Commission President Ursula van der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel are heading to Turkey to try to give a new start to relations between Ankara and Brussels.

Discussions between Brussels and Ankara to ease tensions. The leaders of the European Union are expected Tuesday in Turkey to try to stimulate a new start in the relations after the Turkish promise to promote a “positive agenda”.

The President of the Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, are to present during this visit to the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the modalities of the gradual resumption of economic relations and discuss support for the settled refugees in his country.

After a year of tensions, Turkish officials have stepped up calls for dialogue with Europeans to settle sensitive issues, which, in addition to the Greek-Turkish maritime dispute in the eastern Mediterranean, relate in particular to the role of Turkey in the conflicts in Syria , in Libya and more recently in Nagorno-Karabakh.

But European leaders have called for “credible gestures” and “lasting efforts” from Ankara and placed it under surveillance until June while waving the threat of sanctions.

They asked the Turkish president for acts to demonstrate his desire for appeasement, in particular in connection with his dispute vis-à-vis Greece and Cyprus, the withdrawal of his troops from Libya and respect for fundamental rights in his country. .

“Positive” talks

The Turkish authorities underline their willingness to proceed to “positive” talks, focusing on concrete actions to be carried out with regard to immigration.

But EU leaders have warned that sustaining the “positive agenda” so dear to Ankara depends on Recep Tayyyip Erdogan’s ability to demonstrate that he remains a reliable partner.

The policy of appeasement recently pursued by Turkey comes indeed while Ankara is worried about a possible American hardening towards it, with the entry into office of a new democratic administration in Washington.

As an encouragement to Turkey, the EU said it was ready to initiate the modernization of the Customs Union, to resume the high-level dialogue suspended in 2019 on certain subjects such as security, the environment or health. , and to grant certain visa facilities for Turkish nationals.

The visit comes shortly after Turkey’s controversial withdrawal from a treaty to combat violence against women and the launch of legal proceedings to ban the pro-Kurdish party HDP, the country’s third largest political formation.

Brussels condemned these developments, while remaining committed to working with Turkey if “the current de-escalation continues”.

Migration policy

But each of the two parties has its own list of criticisms against the other.

Ankara expects a modernization of the Customs Union agreement signed in 1995 and a highlighting of Turkey’s vocation to join the EU as a candidate country, a diplomatic source told AFP.

According to the same source, Ankara also wants the renewal of the agreement signed in 2016 with the EU and which has made it possible to considerably reduce the passage of migrants to Europe from Turkey, which has received in return significant financial assistance.

Turkey hosts nearly 4 million refugees and migrants, mostly Syrians.

“The EU has not fully honored its commitments under the agreement, including its financial promises,” laments the Turkish diplomatic source.

Ankara criticizes the EU for having paid only 3.7 million euros in aid for the reception of migrants out of the 6 million promised. Turkish authorities regularly claim to have spent more than 40 billion euros on refugees.

Brussels, for its part, criticizes Ankara for having stopped taking back migrants in an irregular situation on the Greek islands since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Ilke Toygur, an analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Turkey is seeking a transactional relationship with the EU. “Turkey sees a multipolar and divided world where the influence of the West is in decline. It sees it as an opportunity to diversify its allies,” said the researcher in a podcast broadcast by her institute.

The recommendation by Ankara of the creation of two states in Cyprus, while Brussels supports a reunification of the island in the form of a federal state, is added to the long list of discords.

Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 invasion of its northern third by the Turkish army in response to a coup attempt to reattach the island to Greece.


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