EU, Turkey cautiously eye improved ties after tough 2020

BRUSSELS/ANKARA: The European Union and Turkey pressed each other on Thursday to take concrete steps to improve relations long strained by disagreements over energy, migration and Ankara’s human rights record.

Turkey, which remains an official candidate for EU membership despite the tensions, is facing the threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, but the mood music between Brussels and Ankara has improved since the new year.

“We have seen an improvement in the overall atmosphere,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he welcomed Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for talks, describing 2020 as complicated.

“Intentions and announcements need to be translated into actions,” Borrell said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who will meet Cavusoglu on Friday, also noted “a more positive atmosphere”, telling reporters by video conference there was “an opportunity to really make some progress to address the differences”.

The improved tone follows a video conference between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Jan. 9 in which both stressed the importance of the bilateral relationship. Cavusoglu said he hoped von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the head of the European Council which represents the 27 EU member states, would visit Turkey after an invitation from Erdogan. - Reuters