Bilateral Relations

President Erdoğan receives EU policy chiefs

Daily Sabah – President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday received the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the head of the European Union Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Ankara to discuss bilateral ties as Ankara and Brussels seek a way forward after tensions rose high last year.

Both sides have lists of grievances they want to be addressed. Hosting the EU policy chiefs in the Presidential Complex, Erdoğan is expected to discuss the future of Turkey-EU ties, as well as the update of the 2016 migrant deal.

Michel and von der Leyen are expected to present the prospect of key economic and diplomatic gains for Ankara, including more funding for Turkey’s hosting of millions of Syrian refugees.

Years of disagreements over a growing list of issues threatened to boil over last summer when Turkey sent navy ships to support an energy exploration mission in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey withdrew the vessels, somewhat cooling tensions, and this year participated in the first maritime talks with Greece since 2016.

Turkey and EU member Greece have been at odds on several issues. Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

In order to find a solution to the dispute that favors all parties, last year Turkey also proposed holding a conference with the participation of each Mediterranean nation, including the Turkish Cypriots, but the EU has yet to provide a concrete answer to the proposal.

Both the EU and Turkey have voiced their intentions to set a positive agenda, yet further efforts and actions are neededTurkey recently reiterated that it is part of Europe and sees its future in the EU, adding that it will continue to work toward full membership. Turkish officials have also said that they hope for progress in 2021 and expect the bloc to take definitive action to this end.

During the latest summit of EU leaders on March 25-26, the bloc expressed that it is ready to boost cooperation with Turkey if the “current de-escalation is sustained.”

Turkey has underlined that it wants to push forward from the “positive” talks and has called for “concrete action” – particularly when it comes to migration.

Apart from further cooperation on migration and updating the March 18 statement, Ankara expects the modernization of the 1995 customs union and greater emphasis on Turkey’s candidacy to become an EU member.

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