EU leaders said they are ready to launch high-level dialogue with Turkey on issues of mutual concern, as they expressed the desire to improve relations with Ankara, according to a statement released following a virtual summit on Thursday.
Issues of common concern between the bloc and Turkey include counterterrorism efforts, public health and climate, according to the statement.
The bloc’s leaders are ready, “provided that the current de-escalation is sustained,” to discuss modernizing Turkey’s 25-year-old customs union with the EU.
They are also prepared to strengthen cooperation on “people to people contacts and mobility,” a possible reference to visa liberalization.
“In the past month we have seen positive developments ... but the situation remains fragile,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said before the talks began.
The EU is trying to build on recent conciliatory moves from Turkey after the country was involved in a spat over the Eastern Mediterranean with Greece.
Turkey has a very long history with the union and the longest negotiation process. The country signed an association agreement with the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), in 1964, which is usually regarded as a first step to eventually become a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Turkey had to wait until 1999 to be granted the status of a candidate country. For the start of the negotiations, however, Turkey had to wait for another six years, until 2005, a uniquely long process compared with other candidates.
Turkey has been putting special emphasis on the need to update the March 18 statement on migration struck with the bloc in 2016, saying that conditions have changed for refugees in five years.