Turkey and EU hold first joint parliamentary meeting in three years

Turkey and the European Union held their first joint parliamentary meeting in more than three years on Thursday, Turkish state-run Anadolu agency reported.

Members of the Turkish and European parliaments met in Brussels to discuss issues including Turkey’s accession negotiations and shared regional interests, Anadolu said.

Turkey began formal talks to join the EU in 2005 but progress has come to a standstill over Ankara’s human rights record and tensions with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking to the gathering of MPs, co-chair of the EU-Turkey Committee, Emrah Karayel, said Turkey’s EU bid was the “backbone” of bilateral relations, according to Anadolu.

“Unfortunately, since the beginning of the negotiations, it has been highly politicised by some member states and has been used for their national interests,” Karayel, a member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), added.

Greece and Turkey are locked in a longstanding dispute over maritime borders, which has been exacerbated in recent years by the discovery of natural gas in the Mediterranean basin. Turkish ships repeatedly conducted survey activities in waters claimed by Greece throughout the summer of 2020, raising fears of a military confrontation between the two NATO allies.   

Relations have improved since the start of the year, driven in part by the United States’ decision to drop support for a Greek-led proposal to export Mediterranean gas to Europe via Cyprus at Turkey’s exclusion, and the nearby crisis in Ukraine.  

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul on Sunday after emphasising the “extreme circumstances” facing Europe and the need to “disconnect the geopolitics from the energy crisis”.

Recent events in Ukraine have also seen other European countries take a notably softer tone with Turkey. German leader Olaf Scholz made his first visit to Turkish capital Ankara as chancellor on Monday, where he focused on shared security concerns while making only a brief reference to human rights issues.

Sergey Lagodinsky, the German co-chair of the EU-Turkey Committee, struck a similar note while addressing his European and Turkish colleagues in Brussels.

“We have sensed a sense of growing distance between the European Union and Turkey during the past few years. And I think now is the chance to bridge those gaps, to build those bridges, to start anew, and to start a rapprochement on both sides,” he said, according to Anadolu.

“But this rapprochement does not only mean economic ties, they are important, that does not only mean military cooperation, which is extremely important, especially today's, it means also looking for building bridges in terms of our values of what is our orientation in this world, which is so difficult and so aggressive,” he added.

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