The economic relations between Turkey and the European Union, its largest trading partner, are a very important cornerstone in bilateral ties, according to the bloc’s top diplomat in Ankara.
Speaking to a group of reporters from the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Turkey, Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut hailed economic ties with Ankara as he expressed hope to continue to have “a conducive environment” to maintain cooperation with aims to expand on it.
Citing the initial records for last year, Meyer-Landrut said Turkey’s exports to the EU have surpassed 70 billion euros ($79 billion), making the country one of the bloc’s “largest trading partners.”
In the last 25 years, bilateral trade has more than quadrupled, the head of the EU Delegation to Turkey said, noting that “high-level dialogues” on a range of issues are to continue in the year to come.
On the issue of updating the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU, Meyer-Landrut said: “We all agree that the Customs Union and its potential modernization has an important potential for the EU-Turkey economic and trade relations.”
Technical talks on the issue of the Customs Union are ongoing, EU envoy said, adding that Turkey and the bloc are “now working on the elements of a positive agenda,” including many things which were possible, on which engagement is increasing, where cooperation is growing.”
The host of disagreements between Ankara and Brussels over recent years has been stalling the negotiations for the modernization of the trade deal.A deeper 1990s-era trade agreement would be expanded to services, farm goods and public procurement.
The expansion would bring Turkey fully into the internal market of the world’s largest trading bloc, allowing almost all goods and services to flow unhindered.
Turkey is the only non-EU country with a customs union agreement with the bloc. The deal was struck in 1995. In its Dec. 21, 2016, assessment, the European Commission proposed revamping the deal.
On bilateral relations between Turkey and the bloc, Meyer-Landrut recalled the EU and European Council’s “strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey.”
He also cited “the resumption of high-level political meetings,” as well as “high-level dialogues on climate migration, security and public health” during the past year.
“We then have seen an additional decision by the EU to allocate an additional 3 billion euros (over $3.4 billion to support refugees and host communities in Turkey for the next years … this additional 3 billion … makes it three plus three plus three. So, we are close to 10 (billion euros),” he added.
He also said 1 billion euros committed by the end of 2021 covers areas such “as basic needs, education, and migration and border management, which was an issue … particularly asked for by the Turkish authorities.”
Turkey hosts the largest Syrian refugee population, protecting nearly 4 million people who fled the civil war.
In the area of health, the EU envoy said there were “important results” as he cited the “mutual recognition of the COVID-19 digital certificate from Turkey in the EU system.”
Defining the mutual recognition as “an important step also in terms of allowing trade and people movements,” Meyer-Landrut said Turkey was “one of the first countries with such mutual recognition.”
Bilateral projects are in pipeline to strengthen Turkey’s laboratory network and link it to early warning systems. It aims to help detect potential pandemics and allow swift responses and cooperation to fight them.
Meyer-Landrut said the EU recognizes and supports the diplomatic efforts of Turkey as an important NATO ally. “The Turkish government’s outreach, particularly also to Arab countries over the last month, helps and contributes to a more constructive environment in what we think should call our common geography,” he noted.