EU High Representative Josep Borrell has said that the European Union "extends an open hand to Turkey hoping it will seize it."
In a blog post published on Dec. 18, Borrell said that the bloc's relations with Turkey have been one of the greatest EU challenges in 2020 and will likely remain so in 2021.
"We have a chance still to redirect our relations. The EU extends an open hand to Turkey hoping it will seize it, and the agenda presented by EU leaders is clear. I am ready, working together with the Commission and member states, to discuss our proposals for a positive agenda with Turkey and explore ways of bringing our relations forward," Borrell said.
"This could also include enhancing regional cooperation through an Eastern Mediterranean Conference. But for all this to happen, actions that may be considered aggressive or contrary to EU interests have to stop," he added.
According to Borrell, the EU won't be able to achieve stability on the continent unless it finds the right balance in its relations with Turkey and Russia.
Touching upon Turkey's involvement in Syria and Libya, as well as its exploration and drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean, Borrell noted that the bloc's relationship with Turkey is "very complex" and has many dimensions.
He also said that the issues between Greece and Turkey on maritime disputes and the Cyprus settlement talks "are questions that can no longer be postponed."
"Channelling both issues through appropriate diplomatic and technical processes is essential to create space for a healthy EU-Turkey relationship," Borrell said.
Saying that the bloc's relationship with Turkey has "deep historical roots," Borrell noted that its present direction of travel "seems to take it further away from the EU."
"This concerns its internal developments, notably regarding fundamental freedoms, but also Turkey’s external engagement. The latter has gained further relevance in 2020, be it in Syria and Iraq, in Libya, where it has turned the tables in very difficult moments for the Government of National Accord, or in Nagorno-Karabakh, where its support has resulted in a major victory for Azerbaijan," he said.
"Turkey has become a regional power to be reckoned with and has scored undeniable successes. Unfortunately, in quite a few cases, Turkey’s international agenda is not well aligned with the EU’s and its methods are not those of the EU," Borrell said, as he also cited Turkey's "strong resistance to" EU naval operation Irini.
According to Borrell, all the factors he listed raise "fundamental questions on Turkey's objectives."
"And the fact that Turkey is a candidate to EU accession, places the EU in a position where it is entitled to ask those questions. There is no doubt that we have much progress to make in conducting an honest and profound dialogue with Turkey on these matters, and Turkey in providing responses," he said.
Welcoming Turkish officials' statements on Ankara's aim of joining the EU, Borrell stressed that they should be followed by actions that confirm such intentions.
"Relations cannot be a one-way street. The EU also has to show Turkey that it would be welcomed as a family member if it meets its side of the bargain. This is where the positive agenda agreed in the joint statement of 2016 plays a vital role," he said.
"We have to find a way out of tit-for-tat dynamics and get back to cooperation and trust," Borrell added.
'Our economies are tied'
Noting that the EU will have to adopt strong measures to convince Turkey that it is serious and determined to ensure respect for the bloc's interests if Ankara-EU relations continue in a downward spiral, Borrell said that "a strong cooperative relationship with Turkey would constitute a major contribution to European stability."
"Likewise, it will be difficult for Turkey to find a better partner than the EU. Our economies are tied, the EU is by far Turkey’s number one import and export partner, as well as source of investments," he said.
"Turkey’s prosperity and security, as a NATO ally, requires a strong relationship with the EU. There are no sustainable alternatives to this. And a great part of its society, according to most recent polls, still looks towards the EU as a useful example for further development," Borrell added.
The EU's top diplomat finished his blog post with an emphasis on dialogue.
"Beyond clear steps from Turkey and a change of its negative actions and rhetoric of the last months, we need to find a way to get back to honest and effective dialogues and efforts, and strong engagement and commitment from all sides, including from the most-affected EU member states. We need to bring back the energy in our talks with each other, not about each other," he said.
"Frankly speaking, we can either move towards a mutually beneficial agenda or suffer the consequences of our reciprocal misunderstandings. I have no hesitation regarding my own choice."