From partners to rivals?

Think tank: Centre for European Reform

Author(s): Luigi Scazzieri

June 23, 2021

This report from UK think tank the Centre for European Reform looks at the future of EU-Turkey relations.

Relations between the EU and Turkey have become fractious. In 2018, the EU froze Turkish accession negotiations in response to the deterioration of Turkish democracy. Ankara’s naval operations near Greek islands and Cyprus further increased tensions with Europe, as exemplified last summer by a collision between Turkish and Greek ships and a standoff between a Turkish and a French ship near Libya. Ankara’s involvement in the Libyan and Syrian conflicts has also led many Europeans to see Turkey’s policies in the Middle East as destabilising. In his latest CER policy brief ‘From partners to rivals? The future of EU-Turkey relations’, Luigi Scazzieri assesses the deterioration in the EU-Turkey relationship and the dynamics that are shaping relations, offering recommendations for how the EU should temper friction and try to maintain essential co-operation. Last year, EU leaders agreed on a ‘carrot and stick’ strategy, threatening sanctions if Turkey did not halt its actions against Cyprus and Greece, while also stating that they were ready to launch a ‘positive agenda’ centred on deepening trade. In early 2021, Turkey signalled that it wanted better relations with the EU, pausing its naval operations near Greece and Cyprus and resuming diplomacy with Greece. But there is little chance of a genuine improvement in relations in the near term. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s foreign and domestic policies will continue to cause friction with the EU. Erdoğan has not eased internal repression, while talks with Greece and negotiations over Cyprus are unlikely to make progress. At the same time an assertive, militarised foreign policy remains popular with many Turkish voters and tensions with Europe and the US could flare up again.