Turkey hopeful of German presidency on EU ties

Turkey hopeful of German presidency on EU ties

On July 1, Germany will resume the presidency of the European Union for the second half of 2020. Ankara believes Germany’s presidency - as the most influential country in the bloc - would be expedient to Turkey’s motivations for a fresh start with the EU.

Also, Germany is in coordination with the following term presidents of 2021, Portugal and Slovenia, for shaping and sustaining the EU’s policies and priorities for an 18-month-long period.

That’s why senior Turkish diplomats, like Faruk Kaymakçı, deputy foreign minister and director for EU affairs, think highly of the incoming German presidency.

In a webinar on Turkey-EU ties hosted by the Economic Development Foundation on May 28, Kaymakçı stressed that the German presidency would be useful in re-embracing Ankara-Brussels ties, seen as a very sensitive matter for many member countries.

The fight against the pandemic and cooperation in the field of health are among the top issues Turkey and EU under the German presidency will deal with in the coming period, Kaymakçı noted. The fact that Turkey has donated medical equipment to many EU nations and exported ventilators, masks and protective gear to help countries in the anti-virus struggle grants an important opportunity for the two sides to deepen cooperation in the health industry as well as health tourism, according to the deputy minister. He also stressed Turkey’s demand to be part of EU’s joint health policies as the COVID-19 crisis has shown that contagious diseases have no boundaries.

Another immediate issue the two sides will work on is to ensure that tourism will not be negatively affected by the coronavirus measures, Kaymakçı said. Turkey wants to be among destinations to be privileged by the EU as it heavily depends on the European tourists.

For Kaymakçı, however, Turkey’s main expectation from Germany is to get a green light for the start of negotiations over an upgraded customs union. “Not only Turkey, but business groups from both sides are calling for an immediate start of negotiations to modernize the customs union,” Kaymakçı said.

“Starting negotiations would be a very positive message for the prospects of the relations. A functioning customs union with Turkey would play a stabilizing role for the European economies as well,” he suggested. “It would also boost the trust between Turkey and the EU.”

Turkey and the EU have long been considering expanding the scope of the 24-year-old customs union with agriculture, trade in services, e-trade, and public procurement. Ankara hopes Germany will use its influence for a formal beginning of negotiations for a broadened customs union.

However, negotiations with the EU should first cover the problems stemming from the implementation of the current customs unions, Kaymakçı said, describing them a breach of the spirit of the Ankara-Brussels deal in place since 1996.

These include non-tariff barriers to trade, covering a number of goods exported from Turkey to the EU zone like steel, the ambassador said, listing Ankara’s top three expectation from the EU as follows:

  • Turkey has to take part in the EU’s talks for free trade agreements with third parties. Turkey’s exclusion from these processes causes asymmetric problems in the Turkish economy.
  • There are longstanding problems with transportation. Although the Turkish goods can freely roam around the continent, Turkish drivers face difficulty in shipping them as well as the Turkish cargo fleets and trucks.
  • Turkey wants to be part of the EU’s decision-making bodies concerning the customs union. Although Turkey is not a full member, it believes it has to participate in the Trade Policy Committee.

Given the conditions that prevent the Turkish accession process from moving forward, talks for expanding the scope of bilateral trade would set a new beginning for Ankara-Brussels ties. This should be adjusted as a new common project by the two sides with the German presidency leading the process.