EU offers Turkey aid, trade help despite rights concerns
The European Union will strengthen its trade ties with Turkey but will keep sanctions in reserve if Ankara returns to confrontation. The presidents and prime ministers of the EU countries agreed today in a joint statement, which appreciates the current improvement in the Eastern Mediterranean situation and warns against new provocations by Turkey. Leaders also want closer cooperation on migration issues. Ankara is now demanding more money for leaving migrants to Europe on its territory.
Relations between the Union and the long-standing candidate country deteriorated last year, mainly due to a Turkish exploration survey in the Eastern Mediterranean. EU members see Greece and Cyprus as an invasion of their sovereignty.
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who repeatedly voted harsh words against the Union last year, came up with much more accommodating rhetoric this year. His country has ended most of the disputed activities area. The EU has therefore stopped preparing new sanctions and today came up with an offer that includes, among other things, a possible enlargement of the customs union that Turkey is calling for.
If Turkey continues to be supportive, the EU stands ready to “strengthen cooperation in many areas of common interest,” the leaders agreed in a joint statement. They called on the commission, among other things, to explore ways to make travel easier. The abolition of visas to EU countries is another long-standing wish of Ankara.
In particular, Cyprus wanted to include in the joint statement the most robust possible warning to Turkey on human rights issues, especially in connection with its recent withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on Women’s Rights. The proposal to ban one of the Turkish opposition parties, whose leader was convicted this week of insulting the president, also garnered criticism.
“Attacks on political parties, the media, and other recent decisions represent a fundamental weakening of human rights run counter to Turkey’s obligation to respect democracy, the rule of law, and women’s rights,” the leaders said in a statement.