Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, has expressed optimism about improving EU-Turkey relations after a “difficult year” in 2020 with tensions rising between both sides over the situation in the eastern Mediterranean.
The comments from Maas come a day after Turkey’s foreign minister met with Germany’s interior minister to discuss a number of issues that have hurt relations between the European bloc and Ankara.
“We are interested in these talks, and of course in goals and results. Last year was a difficult year in the relationship between the EU and Turkey. This year looks to be a much better one,” Mass said in a statement.
Turkey-EU relations became increasingly tense during 2020, as disputes over migration, Ankara’s ongoing activities around Cyprus, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s feud with French leader Emmanuel Macron put a strain on bilateral relations.
The migration debate centers around the EU claiming that Turkey is allowing migrants to enter Europe through its territory, in violation of a 2016 agreement that would see Ankara block migrants from travelling to the bloc in return for aid. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson is set to visit Turkey on May 7 to see if the disagreements can be ironed out.
The situation between Turkey and Greece is one of the longest-running disputes being considered by the EU, as Ankara and Athens both claim sovereignty over Cyprus and have refused to give up their territory. Instead, Turkish Cypriots have put forward a two-state solution that the Greek side has rejected.
Turkey’s dispute with France emerged as Macron’s government came under pressure from majority-Muslim countries for taking a strong stance against Islam in the wake of a number of terrorist attacks. While France has accepted that “the language is more reassuring” between the two sides after a year of insults from Erdogan, “actions are needed” to restabilize the relationship.
While the way forward on these issues is not clear, Turkey supported the German optimism after meeting with Berlin’s interior minister, discussing steps that both sides can take to secure positive progress.
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