Spotlight: Turkey, EU continue dialogue despite setbacks: experts

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-24 02:24:51|Editor: Chengcheng
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ANKARA, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- On a backdrop of a complex relationship, Turkey and European Union have managed to keep their dialogue on course despite serious setbacks in recent years, focusing on increasing cooperation on regional issues, said local experts.

After nearly a two-year lull, Turkey and the EU held a High-Level Political Dialogue Meeting on Thursday in Ankara attended by two top EU officials, Federica Mogherini, the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and Johannes Hahn, commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations.

They discussed a wide range of topics, including Turkish-EU relations, Ankara's accession process, economic cooperation, energy, customs union, fight against terrorism, migration and visa liberalization.

The long-awaited meeting has been welcomed by experts.

"Recent history experience shows that whenever there is a progress in the EU's process towards integration and cooperation with Turkey, a win-win equation arises," Bahadir Kaleagasi, CEO of Turkish Industry and Business Association told Xinhua.

Kaleagasi, also expert on European affairs, added that this equation entails a vast range of cooperation between the parties, from foreign policy to democracy, energy and security policies and also trade.

After a nearly three-year-long freeze, the Turkish government in August met with ministers of the EU Reform Action Group to step up its agenda on stalled EU reforms.

The move came amid what is now a mutual understanding that Turkey, an EU official candidate country since 2005, would not be a full member of the European bloc anytime soon.

Several member nations are opposed to its accession, a trend that has been accentuated by a massive crackdown on opposition circles after a failed coup on 2016.

The Turkish government insists that tens of thousands of arrests and detentions are a must to keep the followers of the exiled cleric, Fethullah Gulen, blamed of masterminding the botched coup, away from the state apparatus that they had infiltrated.

Earlier this month, Commissioner Hahn said it would be "more honest for the EU to give up on membership talks with Turkey."

However, foreign policy is one of the subjects on which EU and Ankara align.

"Turkey and EU are on the same wavelength on issues like the Syrian war or (U.S.) sanctions on Iran. This seems to highlight new opportunities of cooperation," political analyst and journalist Serkan Demirtas told Xinhua.

"European diplomats underline the fact that foreign policy is a subject on which other issues can be built to warm ties between Ankara and Brussels," said Demirtas, who is the Ankara representative of Hurriyet Daily News and an expert on EU affairs.

Syria comes at the top of the foreign policy issues on which Turkey and the EU have in common.

Both sides are in favor of a political settlement of the seven-year-old conflict through United Nations resolutions and demand that President Bashar al-Assad should be out of the picture in Syria's future.

"We (Turkey, EU) have the same thing in Syria: a political solution that will be viable and a return to a normal situation. In this respect, we can say that our relations are on course, which is not the case in accession talks," said an European diplomat to Xinhua.

"The humanitarian aspect of the Syrian civil war is also an issue on which we have a full agreement and on which we deploy joint and individual efforts," he added.

During a joint press conference in Ankara, Mogherini hailed Turkey's efforts to improve ties with the EU and broker a cease-fire with Russia in Syria's northern Idlib province which would have seen a major humanitarian crisis.

"We will work closely with Turkey in foreign policy issues like Syria, Iran and other areas of common interests," she indicated.

"Turkey is a key strategic partner for the EU," Hahn said, stressing that "we should concentrate on areas of common interest where positive results are achievable," citing security, migration, energy and trade in particular.

Migration is indeed a vital area of Turkish-European cooperation. The two parties inked a deal in 2016 to solve Europe's most pressing problem, the influx of refugees to the union, mostly from Syria, sparking social and political dispute in many European nations.

The agreement foresees that in exchange for Turkey stemming the refugee flow to Europe, the EU would pay Turkey 6 billion euros (6.81 billion U.S. dollars) in financial aid.

The agreement also envisaged acceleration in Turkey's EU accession talks and visa-free travel for its citizens, yet both these issues have not progressed.