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Turkey-EU: How is the “positive agenda” doing these days?

May 19, 2021

Only some three weeks ahead important EU - and NATO - events will take place, summit meetings, perhaps this time in physical, non-digital formats. Time on both events to discuss numerous world crises and developments. Turkey will be an item on the agenda of both.

The last opportunity for high-level Turkey discussions was at the EU/EC summit back in March. That event was supposed, back in December last year, to be a major benchmark för the evolution of a "positive agenda" between the two sides, The EU and Turkey, compared to the troublesome events during 2020, especially as regards action-reaction in the Eastern Mediterranean. There was at the December summit also the agreed orientation to henceforth seek harmonisation between the EU and the new Biden administration concerning policies towards Erdogan´s Turkey, inter alia. It was hoped that joint US-EU-Turkey efforts towards a "positive agenda" would be be constructive way forward, making sanctions unnecessary.

But the March summit of the EU had - in spite of some positive signs from the Turkish side displaying a will to reform and de-escalation - to conclude that progess on the "positive agenda" (customs union, migration, visa liberalization, Cyprus, etc) was clearly insufficient for further steps to be taken. The can had - again - to be kicked down the alley, till the June events.

So there we are now, unfortunately with very few, if any, signs that prospects for the "positive agenda" are advancing. But in this situation of gloom, president Erdogan has at least one thing to rejoice: that the NATO summit will finally, finally, give him the chance for a private chat with Joe Biden.