Sunday, October 17, 2021

Turkey-EU ties face uncertainty as German Chancellor Merkel stepping down -

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's departure from the European political scene may cast a shadow over the difficult relationship between Turkey and the European Union (EU), experts said.

Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday held talks in Turkey's largest city of Istanbul. Under a "cordial atmosphere" described by the local media, the two leaders discussed ties between Turkey and Germany, Turkey's membership bid to the EU, irregular migration, and a series of regional issues.

On one hand, it is no secret that the long-serving chancellor was opposed to Turkey's accession to the European bloc. Turkey's EU membership talks are currently blocked as a result of tensions with Greece and Cyprus.

On the other hand, Merkel used conciliatory rhetoric toward Ankara despite divergent interests on many issues.

Merkel is set to leave power once a new government is in place in Berlin following general elections, and this could mean a new approach to Turkey, according to analysts.

"We need to be realistic. Merkel's absence will be a significant loss for Turkey. Her well-balanced approach toward Turkey was instrumental in reducing tensions between the EU and Turkey, and also in bilateral ties," former Turkish ambassador Uluc Ozulker said.

"Without the stability that Merkel incarnated, bilateral relations and Turkey's ties with the EU are poised to face snags and uncertainty," Ozulker said on private broadcaster NTV.

In 2016, Merkel clinched a deal between the EU and Turkey, which successfully decreased the number of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea toward Europe. As part of the deal, Turkey received financial support.

Turkey, a key transit point for asylum seekers on their way to Europe, hosts more than 4 million refugees, including over 3.6 million Syrians, within its borders.

According to a source close to the Ankara government, Turkey needs the EU, its biggest trade partner, while Germany and the EU need Ankara to pursue a "balanced and mutually satisfactory migration policy."

Afghanistan is another issue where the parties need each other following the Taliban's takeover, it said. The Taliban has engaged in diplomatic dialogue with both Berlin and Ankara.

This source also remarked that the new German government is expected to be more sensitive on human rights, rule of law and personal freedoms issues.

This scenario might irritate Erdogan who has frequently accused the EU of failing to support his country's struggle against "terrorists" after a botched coup in 2016.

According to independent foreign policy analyst Tulin Daloglu, current disagreements inside the EU may also have an impact on the future of Turkey-EU relations after Merkel leaves office.

"Europe is entering an area of uncertainties," she told Xinhua, adding that "the United States has shifted its security pact from Europe to East Asia."

Given the uncertainties facing the bloc, the expert said that Turkey may also have additional troubles concerning its decades-long strategy to be a member of the union.

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