High Representative Josep Borrell presented joint report on state of play of EU-Turkey bilateral political, economic and trade relations, EU External Actions Press office reports. In his press briefing Borrell, in particular, said:
“Turkey is a very important partner, and this first assessment was already done in Spring 2021 - when we were in a turbulent period in our relations.
It is clear that there have been difficulties in the past, such as the dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean, bilateral relations with some of our Member States, and trade irritants. But we have seen a more constructive attitude on these points although there are still open issues, which we need to address together and certainly, this includes - in a relevant position - the Cyprus issue.
We are living in an increasingly complex and challenging geopolitical context, and the need for the European Union to strengthen its security, has a profound impact on the EU- Turkey relations. I think that we are interested in developing a mutually beneficial partnership with Turkey - an important neighbour, as I said, a key partner and do not forget it, a European Union candidate country - although the accession track with Turkey remains at a standstill. This report has nothing to do with that, it is about the broad approach to Turkey apart from its [EU] candidacy.
Against this background and faced with a need to pursue our interests more effectively, the European Union needs to consider which are the next steps in the EU- Turkey relations.
In this context, we have identified a number of possible options towards engagement with Turkey in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner. Phased, proportionate and reversible manner.
These steps are subject to the established conditionalities already set out by the European Council in June and March 2021.
Our report makes also clear the two-tracks approach suggested by the March 2021 Communication, that was welcomed by the European Union leaders, and it still remains valid.
We reaffirm our determination to use the instruments at our disposal to defend the interests of the EU and our Member States, as well as to uphold regional stability.
Ensuring a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean - this is a strategic goal of the European Union.
Engaging with Turkey, most notably, on the Cyprus issue, but also given the importance of good neighbourhood relations with Greece, is of essence.
Wider regional issues in the Eastern Mediterranean are also calling for a closer European Union engagement with Turkey and other regional partners, for the much-needed work to turn the dynamics from conflict to cooperation.
In the context of the Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, Turkey’s role in the Black Sea, as a NATO ally, is also key.
Implementation of the European Union sanctions against Russia and actively combatting efforts of circumvention is also of paramount importance in this context.
The proposals in this report suggest continuing and taking more steps towards engaging with Turkey in areas of mutual interest, such as trade, investments, migration, connectivity, green and digital transition, energy, to name just a few, and also about visa facilitation.
We suggest to resume the High-Level Dialogues and the Association Council that were suspended in 2019 - it means four years ago.
But, at the same time, we are clear with our expectations: maintain the calm in the Eastern Mediterranean and improve its prosperity.
For that, we also suggest making first steps towards the launching of negotiations with Turkey on the modernisation of Customs Union.
Again, we are clear on what we expect from Turkey to do for this to happen, namely addressing trade irritants, to cooperate with us on preventing circumvention of sanctions against Russia and creating a climate conducive to the resumption of Cyprus settlement talks.
And finally, the dialogue on the rule of law and fundamental rights will remain an integral part of the European Union- Turkey relationship and we see that there is room for improvement.
To summarise, the European Union clearly has a strategic interest to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey and maintain a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean. And this Joint Communication, from the High Representative and the [European] Commission responds to this objective.
It is now for the European Leaders to give further guidance on how we take forward our engagement with Turkey”.