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36 - Bilateral relations with Turkey

Grade: B
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Strategy 3/5
Impact 2/5
Total 13/20
Scorecard 2015: C+ (10/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (9/20)
Scorecard 2013: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2012: D+ (5/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: D+ (5/20)

The EU strengthened relations with Turkey, buying cooperation to stem the flow of refugees by “re-energising” the accession process

EU–Turkey relations underwent a substantial shift in 2015, primarily as a result of the refugee crisis and Turkey’s role as a host and transit country on the EU’s border. The Council and the European External Action Service (EEAS) had stepped up their engagement with Turkey even before the crisis, but the inflow of refugees at Europe’s borders added new and urgent momentum.

In October, a confident President Erdoğanpaid a long-awaited visit to Brussels, and in the same month German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Ankara to offer money, progress on the accession process, and visa liberalisation in exchange for help on the refugee crisis. This came just two weeks before the second round of elections in Turkey, in which the ruling AKP won a decisive victory.

At the EU–Turkey summit in November, leaders agreed to “re-energise” the accession process and hold summits twice a year, open Chapter 17 on economic and monetary policies, and move forward on visa liberalisation in 2016. Turkey is expected to implement the readmission agreement by June 2016 – which covers the return of nationals of each country who are irregularly present in the other – and a visa-free regime could take effect by October 2016. The EU also agreed to give Turkey €3 billion in aid to deal with refugees.

Whether promises on accession can be delivered will depend to a large extent on whether there is a breakthrough in talks on the reunification of Cyprus in 2016. This would lead to Nicosia unblocking the opening of several chapters with Turkey. Since accession negotiations opened in 2005, 14 chapters have been opened and, of these, one has been provisionally closed.

In other areas of cooperation, the High Level Energy Dialogue and Strategic Energy Cooperation was launched in March 2015. There were also preparatory steps to upgrade the Customs Union, with formal negotiations to begin in 2016.