BRUSSELS

The EU foreign policy chief on Tuesday called for the building of bridges between the bloc and Turkey.

“The EU has a strategic interest in the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey,” Josep Borrell wrote on his blog dedicated to EU foreign policy.

Referring to last year’s tensions over the Eastern Mediterranean, Borrell said “the situation remains fragile, but the EU welcomes these forthcoming developments and gestures on the part of Turkey and has responded by extending its hand.”

During a virtual summit, EU leaders last week discussed a report on the future of Turkish-EU relations, prepared by Borrell and the European Commission, and decided to continue negotiations on a constructive agenda.

According to Borrell, the economy is one of the most important areas of cooperation since Turkish exports to the EU total €69.8 billion ($81.8 billion) and the country receives €58.5 billion ($68.6 billion) of its foreign direct investment (FDI) from EU countries.

4 areas of differences

At the same time, he acknowledged that the bloc and Turkey have tensions over four main questions, namely the Eastern Mediterranean, the Cyprus issue, regional conflicts such as Libya and Syria, and democratic standards.

“The old disputes deeply affect security interests of the European Union and can no longer be considered just bilateral matters between Turkey and some member states,” he argued.

Turkey has resisted efforts by Greece to turn the dispute with Turkey over maritime borders into a dispute with the EU.

He also said “democratic standards remain a key element, not just for the EU, but also for the people in Turkey.”

It is time to overcome the differences in a constructive way, and “to build this bridge,” Borrell suggested, adding: “I believe we can do this.”

Implying the possibility of Turkey’s EU accession, he said: “Turkey is an important regional power and its historical destiny could well be to join the rest of Europe in the unique peace project that we are building under the banner of the European Union.”

Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the heads of the European Commission and European Council, will visit Turkey next Tuesday to discuss with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the future of Turkish-EU ties.

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