Carrots Dressed as Sticks: EU Offers Turkey to Deepen Trade With Sanctions ‚on Standby‘

Written by | Thursday, March 25th, 2021

The European Union should be ready to kick Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan where it hurts, notably in the country‘s economy, if he goes back to gas piracy in the Mediterranean, EU institutions have hinted. The bloc should, however, also offer him more money to keep refugees from coming no matter what and better customs perks if he remains “calm” and “constructive”. According to a report drafted by the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, EU member states tentatively plan to invite Turkey to follow a path of dialogue and reap some economic benefits, or move further away from Europe and face consequences. This plan is set to be discussed by EU leaders on Thursday (25 March).
“Since last December, Turkey has shown a calmer, more constructive attitude on various issues … these are positive and welcome steps forward,” the report states but also warns that “the process of de-escalation remains fragile” and thus calls for “more time to judge whether it is sustainable and credible and delivers lasting results, also in the light of the deteriorating domestic situation in Turkey”. Borrell’s report specifically refers to the failure by Turkish and Greek diplomats to reach a breakthrough last week during the latest round of talks on their stand-off over eastern Mediterranean borders and energy rights. At a summit in December, EU leaders postponed once again a decision to impose sanctions on Turkey for its “unauthorised” activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. In another setback, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Treaty, designed to combat violence against women, which has sparked immediate protests from world leaders and campaigners. The controversial move was described as “devastating” for efforts to combat domestic violence by the head of Europe’s main human rights body, the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe.
Borrell’s report again suggests adopting a ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach towards Ankara, by putting “a number of possible areas of cooperation on the table to allow for a progressive, proportionate and reversible approach”. Those mostly economic incentives would include “a modernisation and expansion of the scope of the current EU-Turkey Customs Union” and support in economic reforms as well as “increasing people-to-people contacts is a further confidence-building measure” such as the participation in the next generation of EU programmes Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe. “The Commission remains ready to advise Turkey on the specifics of the outstanding benchmarks defined in the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap,” the report also suggests. The document, however, also provides some sticks in case Turkey does “not move forward constructively in developing a genuine partnership with the EU, but instead return to renewed unilateral actions or provocations.”

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