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Turkey, EU Seek to Reset Relationship 9 décembre 2014

Posted by Acturca in Energy / Energie, EU / UE, Middle East / Moyen Orient, Russia / Russie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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The Wall Street Journal Europe (USA) Tuesday, December 9, 2014, p. 5

By Emre Peker in Ankara, Turkey and Laurence Norman in Brussels

Top officials from Turkey and the European Union on Monday pledged to improve cooperation amid new challenges posed by Russia’s confrontation with the West and the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, in part of a new push to mend a strained relationship.

Both sides hailed the EU visit, the highest-level in several years, as a sign that they want to re-energize a partnership that has frayed in recent years despite Turkey’s decadesold application to join the bloc.

Back- to- back meetings were dominated by discussions over the Sunni extremist group, the wider war in Syria and an ensuing refugee crisis that has hit both Turkey and the EU. The EU wants more information from Turkey on foreign Islamist fighters crossing its borders and the threats they may pose, according to officials.

EU officials said the bloc would ramp up intelligence and diplomatic cooperation and provide €70 million ($85 million) in additional aid for refugees.

“We need to increase our cooperation and our common work, not only because of our common interests but also because of our common challenges,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said following a meeting with Turkish officials.

Brussels is also eager to court Turkey as Moscow tries to bolster its own links with Ankara, in a bid to undermine Western efforts to punish Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

The U.S. has also been working relentlessly in recent months to anchor the position of Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in the West, with backto-back high-level visits to Ankara. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will arrive Tuesday to discuss the fight against Islamic State.

For the EU, a key way to bolster ties would be reinvigorating Turkey’s sluggish accession talks, though both sides played down the possibility of a sudden change.

“Negotiations are part of the process; we have to see the further development of the country and understand that Turkey’s goal is to agree full-heartedly to European values,” the EU enlargement commissioner, Johannes Hahn said. He added Brussels may start talks on a new policy area that Ankara must fulfill to join, though he didn’t give further details.

“Going forward, efforts adopted at the core will be enacted,” said Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir. “It’s not the speed, but the substance of the process that’s important.”

EU and Turkish officials say business links have remained strong and insist that political ties—while difficult—haven’t frayed entirely.

But a similar effort to strengthen the relationship in May 2012 was effectively sidelined the following year amid a crackdown in Turkey on nationwide antigovernment protests as well as corruption scandals and social-media bans in the country.

Brussels sharply criticized the government, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, responded by accusing EU members of fomenting unrest.

“If you look at Turkey-EU relations from an enlargement prism it’s in a terrible state and not going to get better,” said James Ker-Lindsay, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics. “Still, this is a significant visit from a neighborhood policy perspective.”

Turkey’s push to open new markets and strengthen its regional position has faltered amid the turmoil on its borders and its estrangement from new regimes in Cairo and elsewhere. That has renewed Turkey’s economic reliance on the EU, its biggest trading partner.

For the EU, reaffirming ties with Turkey became more important last week, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Moscow would drop the planned $20 billion South Stream natural-gas pipeline through Bulgaria in favor of a link to Turkey.

Ms. Mogherini said the issue of Mr. Putin’s proposed gas link to Turkey would be discussed in more detail at a future meeting.

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