Turkey’s influence expanding, EU’s top diplomat says
Turkey is an important geopolitical actor and its influence is expanding to Africa, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said during a panel at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, adding Brussels should strengthen cooperation with Turkey as the war continues in Ukraine.
The EU’s top diplomat attended the forum and held some bilateral meetings, including with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on March 12.
The two top diplomats extensively discussed the ongoing crisis in Ukraine after Russia launched a massive military offensive and the ways Ankara and Brussels could cooperate to reduce the impacts of the ongoing invasion.
“This conflict has put Turkey’s role forward. This has also demonstrated to us that we have to strengthen our relationship with Turkey as both a partner and a candidate country,” Borrell said in an interview with private broadcaster NTV over the weekend in Antalya.
The world and Europe are being challenged by the Russian aggression against Ukraine and these challenges are growing every other day, he said, adding, “All these problems affect all of us, the member states, the NATO as well as Turkey as the second-largest army of the NATO. We have to strengthen our ties with Turkey, and that’s why I am here.”
The EU’s top diplomat also thanked Turkey for its mediation between Russia and Ukraine, whose foreign ministers met for the first time since the war began on Feb. 24.
On a question of whether Turkey should join the EU in imposing sanctions against Russia, Borrell said all the states are following a very sensitive policy and stressed that the countries should try to stop the aggression and avoid the spillover of the armed conflict.
Strategic autonomy for Europe
Borrell also joined a panel titled “What does strategic autonomy entail for Europe?” with the participation of Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks, Slovakian Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok and former Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
The participants discussed how it would be possible for Europe to lessen its dependency on the security provided by the United States and whether the ongoing war in Ukraine can change the EU’s security policies.
“Autonomy is not about the military. It means getting rid of dependencies. We need to get rid of our dependencies in areas such as energy and rebuild our capacity. This is strategic autonomy,” Borrell said.
Latvian Defense Minister Pabriks underlined the importance of NATO for the security of member countries, saying, “If we would not have joined the NATO and the EU, we would have already been invaded by Russia and follow the same faith of Ukraine.”
Russia’s attack against Ukraine has consolidated NATO and the EU, and both institutions will revise their strategic planning, the Strategic Concept and Strategic Compass, respectively, in line with the new developments in the continent, he added.
On a question of how the EU’s new strategic planning will involve Turkey, Borrell recalled that ties with Turkey are becoming better after a difficult three-year period. “Ties are now becoming better. From the European perspective, Turkey is still there. But there are still problems with some member states,” he said.
Turkey is no doubt a geopolitical player in the region, and its influence is expanding into different geographies, Borrell suggested, saying, “Turkey, now, is a player in Africa. It is an important actor in places like Somalia, and surely Libya.”
“Turkey is a candidate country, but you have to solve the problems. The importance of Turkey is even more today,” the high representative added.