For more than 15 years, Turkey has been a candidate to join the European Union. Due to several disputes in a tumultuous 2020, membership wasn’t around the corner. However, hopes have risen for a more harmonious 2021, as EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell welcomed Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Brussels for talks.
In previous years, Turkey’s membership quest came to a standstill, because negotiations between the country and the block were strained by disagreements around several issues, including energy. The EU criticized how Turkey surveyed for oil and gas in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean and implemented sanctions for top executives of involved companies. This with a strong message that sanctions would be extended to Turkey as a whole if these actions wouldn’t stop immediately. With a discussion on more sanctions on the EU agenda in March 2021, Turkey now seeks to improve relations and sequestered the Turkish seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis from disputed waters.
High level talks
The improved tones in EU Turkey talks and steps toward more stability were followed by a video conference between the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen on January 9. Both leaders stressed the importance of a harmonious bilateral relationship. Erdoğan even stated that “Turkeys wants to turn page in the relationship with the EU in the new year” and suggested later that Turkey could fill in the void that Brexit has left.
A promising start of the year, but no guarantees are given that the EU will not implement any new sanctions, as the illegal oil and gas drilling are no isolated events. In tandem, Turkey also supports the Turkish Cypriots in the Northern Cyprus which demand a split of Cyprus in two, a signal that doesn’t sit well with EU leaders.
Since stability is beneficial for all, the parties agreed to resume talks aimed at mending ties.