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Top EU Diplomat Calls for Stronger Turkish-EU Ties

Josep Porrel, an EU diplomat, recently expressed his desire to have stronger ties between the European Union (EU) and Turkey. He referred to four major disputes between the two: the Eastern Mediterranean issue involving the search for natural resources and Libya, Syrian immigrants, recent democratic standards in Turkey, and the Cyprus situation. According to Porrel, these issues have risen from previous ones, and they are becoming increasingly complicated over time. Solving them would result in mutual benefits for both sides, and finding solutions will be possible with two-sided, non-prejudiced efforts.

The Cyprus issue has a long history. Following the end of British dominance on the island, the Turks and Greeks were unable to form a nation, resulting in an armed conflict in 1974. The Turkish army joined the Cyprus war and found a new Turkish state. Both Greece and Turkey held several meetings in order to reach an agreement on how to form a union.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, urged both sides to hold a referendum to determine whether the public wanted a federation or to remain as two countries on the island. The Turkish people voted for union, while the Greeks voted against it. Thus, the Annan plan failed. Following this unsuccessful attempt, Greek Cyprus, as the state of Cyprus, was accepted as a member of the EU, worsening the situation. Turkey continued to insist on managing the Cyprus situation, and the political conflict between the two sides became more complicated than ever.

Another key issue is the fight over the natural resources in the Mediterranean sea. Following the signing of an agreement with Libya, Turkey claims to have more area in the Mediterranean Sea. Greece and a few other countries have thus formed a new alliance with Egypt and other nations in response. It seems like this conflict will take many years to resolve.

The issue with Syrian immigrants is extremely difficult to resolve as well. Almost five million immigrants are now living in Turkey, and the Syrian government refuses to accept them back despite the Turkish economy’s inability to support a large immigrant population. The EU member states are also unwilling to admit these people into their countries. While the EU and Turkey have finally agreed to manage the immigration crisis, it has not been very effective due to other political issues.

Finally, the EU claims that Turkey’s democratic standards are insufficient to foster future relations between the EU and Turkey. In Turkey, the pressure on opposing political groups and minorities is increasing. The AK Party is attempting to maintain political power, and it appears that President Erdogan will go to any length to maintain his grip. Many people are being arrested without sufficient evidence, and the common thread among many arrested people is the expression of opposing ideas. The political system change in Turkey in 2018 appears to be aimed at creating a one-man administration with no institutional structure. The EU refuses to accept Turkey to the union with this political structure. 

Only well-developed cooperation could create better opportunities for both sides. The Turkish economy cannot produce enough high-quality jobs, and many educated people are overqualified in their home countries. At the same time, the EU standards in managing industrial production and natural resources may provide Turkey with strategic advantages. On the other hand, the union needs a younger population as well as well-developed relations with Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Turkey could provide a large number of young workers while also connecting the EU and the Eastern countries. However, the political situation in Turkey is making it nearly impossible to resolve the four disputes between the EU and Turkey.

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