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Will the EU’s positive agenda on Turkey amount to anything more than wishful thinking?

Amanda Paul

Date: 23/11/2021
One year on, it remains to be seen whether the EU’s positive agenda (PA), an effort to establish a new modus vivendi with Turkey, will bear fruit. Turkey is one of the EU’s most important neighbours and a crucial partner on numerous issues, including migration, counterterrorism, energy and trade. Yet relations have always been challenging, with honeymoon periods few and far between. 

Bickering and animosity have become the norm. In 2020, escalating disputes in areas from human rights to maritime claims and military interventions brought the relations to a major crisis. Looking ahead, Ankara’s domestic and foreign policy ahead of crucial elections in 2023 (or earlier), the Cyprus problem, Germany’s leadership change, the 2022 French presidential election and Paris taking over the EU Council Presidency will all impact relations.

Amanda Paul gives a concise state of play of EU-Turkey relations, what we can expect and what should be avoided, and areas for improvement. While Turkish membership of the EU seems highly unlikely, neither Ankara nor the EU is ready to call it quits. With no functioning accession process, EU–Turkey relations need a new framework that reduces the chances of further rupture and creates a new dynamic. Implementing the PA should be the starting point of this framework. In which case, the EU should consider the following four recommendations:

  1. green-light the talks to update the Customs Union;
  2. enhance migration dialogue;
  3. continue support for Turkish civil society and independent journalism; and
  4. revitalise foreign policy dialogue.
2022 will likely be a testing year. If the two parties are to move away from years of distrust and muddling through, they will have to exhibit political will and acquire a truly strategic vision for the future.

Read the full paper here.
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