EU’s new leaders engage in dialogue with Turkey
Both Turkey and the new leaders of the European Union are hopeful to start a new era in bilateral relations following a courtesy phone exchange between EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 1.
Leyen called President Erdoğan on her first day in office in a show of importance attached to ties with Turkey, a candidate country although accession talks have been stalled.
According to a statement by the Turkish presidency, the two discussed Turkey’s accession to the EU, the March 18, 2016 agreement between the sides regarding support to the Syrians in Turkey and voluntary return of Syrians to the safe zone being established by the Turkish administration in northern Syria.
In a Twitter post, Leyen said she started her first day in the office with courtesy phone calls to G7/G20 members, saying they “have to work together” to tackle global challenges.
Along with Leyen, former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel took office as president of the European Council as of Dec. 1.
German politician Leyen was elected as the head of the EU’s executive body following her service as a defense minister to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governments. She is believed to be a follower of Merkel’s political line with expectations that she will try to keep ties with Turkey on track.
One of the top issues the EU Commission and Turkey will continue to work on will be the implementation of the March 2016 refugee agreement. It aims to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
According to diplomats, both Leyen and Michel are willing to work closely with the Turkish government on these issues.
Ties between Ankara and Brussels have been severely damaged in the recent years after the latter criticized the Turkish government for deteriorating the state of democracy, human rights and rule of law. Turkey, on the other hand, has slammed the EU for not giving support to its fight against the multiple terror organizations, including FETÖ, which staged a failed coup on July 15, 2016.
New rapporteur hails ties with Turkey
In the meantime, the European Parliament’s recently appointed Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor did underline the importance of Turkey for the EU while stressing that the candidate country’s accession process should continue.
“Turkey is an important country for the EU. Turkey is our permanent neighbor; we cannot change this. Thus, we need to be in better relations within the current format or any other format possible,” Amor told Deutsche Welle over the weekend.