EU heads visit Turkey in bid to reset relations

EU heads visit Turkey in bid to reset relations

Brussels (Brussels Morning) European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel travelled to Ankara on Tuesday to meet with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an attempt to defrost relations between the two sides, Deutsche Welle reports.

AFP cites an unnamed EU official as saying that the meeting would “not be the moment for negotiations, but will provide a framework” for progress. The EU is reportedly preparing a “carrot-and-stick” approach to Turkey, and is willing to make certain concessions should Erdogan prove to be constructive.

Deescalating tensions

Some of the “carrots” include the possible modernisation of the customs union agreement with Turkey, as well as liberalizing the current visa regime for Turkish citizens. Brussels is also likely to offer more funding for Ankara’s handling of Syrian refugees.

Turkey, on the other hand, would be expected to de-escalate tensions with Greece over maritime prospecting in disputed territorial waters, and to commit to constructive talks on the future of Cyprus.

Turkey hit a low point in its relations with the EU as tensions built up last year between Ankara and Athens over a Turkish survey vessel sent into waters claimed by Greece. The EU threatened to escalate sanctions against Ankara, while the two countries placed their respective forces on military alert.

Negotiating table

However, the EU was prompted to reconsider its approach, when Turkey initiated a number of conciliatory moves this year, returning to the negotiating table with Greece and re-engaging with the UN peace process on Cyprus.

“The situation remains fragile”, EU High Representative Josep Borrell, said in reference to Turkey. “But the EU welcomes these forthcoming developments and gestures on the part of Turkey and has responded by extending its hand”. Erdogan travelled to Brussels last month, where he met with von der Leyen and Michel, when the two made clear their commitment to preserving the 2016 refugee deal.