A new chapter in EU-Turkey relations?
The news has been somewhat better on another front where we had many tensions before, namely EU-Turkey relations. With EU Ministers, we agreed that there has been an improvement when it comes to the overall rhetoric used and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, we have seen very worrying decisions domestically, notably the crackdown on the democratic opposition party HDP and the announced withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention – nomen est omen – protecting women’s rights. I had a long conversation with the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after the FAC where we discussed these issues and the Cyprus question, following my recent visit there.
I am convinced that we need to continue engaging actively with Turkey to ensure we get and sustain a more constructive attitude. At the European Council, leaders welcomed the report that I presented as High Representative together with the Commission as the right basis for their conclusions and they agreed that given Turkey’s more constructive attitude recently we should aim for engagement in areas of common interests, from the functioning of the customs union to migration plus other areas of mutual interests. We do so through a phased, proportionate, but also reversible approach, should Turkey return to a path of confrontation. On this clear basis, I will now work actively on all relevant tracks, including the work on the Eastern Mediterranean Conference and the wider regional aspects.
One key case where we need Turkey to act in a more constructive way is Libya. After ten years of conflict, the people of Libya have a new chance with the establishment of a unity government and the political transition underway. We all need to do our utmost to use this window of opportunity as I discussed with Prime Minister Al Debaiba who heads the new government of national unity. Turkey has been a major actor in Libya including through military intervention. Now we need to see what we as EU can do additionally including, if asked by the UN, to help monitor the ceasefire.
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