Brussels (dpa) – The EU wants to prepare an extension of the customs union with Turkey. During the EU summit, the heads of state or government called on the Council of ministers to start negotiating a negotiating mandate for the European Commission.
This could then enter into talks with the Ankara government. The resolution is intended to provide a strong incentive for Turkey to constructively seek a solution to conflicts with Greece and Cyprus. The conflicts, until recently, included Turkish gas explorations near the Greek islands and off Cyprus.
In the dispute, the EU threatened Turkey with severe sanctions last December. The country then put an end to the controversial gas exploration and indicated its willingness to talk.
Both sides have a great economic interest in the expansion of the customs union. For example, it could stimulate trade in the agricultural and services sectors. The negotiations should actually start at the end of 2016, but so far the EU Member States have not given the EU Commission a negotiating mandate.
In the summer of 2018, during a ministerial meeting, it was officially decided not to start negotiations on the expansion of the customs union for the time being. Turkey was recently further removed from the European Union, it said in a statement at the time. Above all, the ongoing setbacks in the rule of law, fundamental rights and freedom of expression are of great concern. Actions against journalists, academics, human rights activists, opposition politicians and social media users cannot be tolerated.
It was initially unclear whether this decision was now outdated. Thursday’s statement again strongly condemned developments in Turkey, but there was no direct link to the issue of the customs union or other areas of cooperation.
The passage merely states that the rule of law and the dialogue on fundamental rights will remain an integral part of EU-Turkey relations. The recent attacks on political parties and the media, as well as other decisions, were major human rights setbacks and were in violation of Turkey’s commitment to respect democracy, the rule of law and the rights of women.
Heads of state or government alluded to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decreeing last weekend that he was withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention on the Protection of Women from Violence. A few days earlier, the public prosecutor in Ankara had also filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court to ban the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP, among other things over terrorist allegations. It also demands a five-year political ban on more than 680 HDP politicians.
In addition to expanding the customs union, if Turkey makes further progress in the gas dispute, efforts will be made again to promote mobility and direct personal contacts between Turks and EU citizens. Turkey has long unsuccessfully demanded that all Turks be allowed to travel to EU countries without a visa.
In addition, regardless of further developments in the gas dispute, the EU intends to expand its cooperation with Turkey in areas such as border protection and the fight against illegal migration, and to improve the return of irregular migrants and rejected asylum seekers to Turkey. . As an incentive for this, the European Commission must prepare further financial support for the reception of Syrian refugees.
Current cooperation with Turkey on migration policy is mainly based on a refugee pact concluded in 2016. It provides, among other things, that the EU can return all migrants who come to the Greek islands illegally via Turkey. In return, EU countries are taking those in need of protection from Syria and funding aid for refugees living in Turkey. Their number was last given at about four million.
The European Commission has recently criticized the fact that Turkey is currently no longer accepting migrants from Greece. Ankara justifies this with the corona pandemic.