Nikos Kotzias in Valletta to participate in “Gymnich”

Nikos Kotzias in Valletta to participate in “Gymnich”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikos Kotzias, will take part in the Informal Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (“Gymnich”) on Friday, April 28, in Valletta.

Developments in Turkey and EU Turkey relations will be on the agenda, while during the working lunch that will follow, ministers will exchange views on globalization and modern challenges. Finally, the implementation of the EU’s Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy will be discussed.

Specifically, the debate on Turkey will focus on the conditions of the referendum on 16 April, the “next day” and the further course and context of EU-Turkey relations. The question is whether the next Turkish government following the referendum could be different from the previous one and what Europe’s answer could be.

However, as a first reaction, the Joint Statement by Mr. Juncker, President of the Commission, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms. Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn, contains very cautious wording and refers to the need to assess the implementation of constitutional changes in practice, pending a final OSCE / ODIHR report.

As regards emerging trends amongst the Member States, some, such as Austria, the Scandinavian countries, Benelux, etc., approach the issue from the point of view of the “autocratization” of Turkish society and the risk of democratic deprivation in Turkey, ignoring that Turkey has never been a democracy in the western sense. In other words, they evaluate the Turkish regime using criteria that do not relate to the nature of the society that feeds it. The result of this erroneous reading of the situation certainly leads to an incomplete understanding of the real issues, which consist of Turkey’s stability but also its external orientation.

With regard to EU-Turkey relations, the question arises as to whether the recent President’s statements on the occasion of the referendum, as well as the “threats” of restoring the death penalty, signify a change in policy towards Brussels or, ultimately, if the convergent interests between Turkey and major European countries on a series of issues of major importance (Syrian issue, migratory issue, trade and energy relations) will lead over time to the reduction of tension and the search for communication and cooperation channels.

However, on the issue of Turkey’s accession prospect, it seems that some Brussels circles – and some m/s – are already seriously considering finding a new form of relationship, possibly a strategic partnership, based mainly on the logic of ‘sectoral cooperation’ and a ‘transactional’ nature on issues of common interest, something which, in part, is already in place. At the same time, there is talk of upgrading the Customs Union.

Of course, any step that will constitute a fundamental change in the EU’s approach so far requires the approval of all EU Member States as well as Turkey’s assent. However, in the face of “Gymnich”, Commissioner Hahn has publicly advised (via the Financial Times) that new framework for EU-Turkey relations is considered, while his Austrian counterpart, Mr. Kurz, has sent a letter in favor of a re-examination of Euro-Turkish relations (obviously implying the abandonment of the accession process and the establishment of a special relationship). In other words, Austria is “cultivating a climate” ahead of “Gymnich”.

Against this background, Friday’s talks on Turkey are of increasing interest, while the surrounding atmosphere in Euro-Turkish relations has recently worsened as a result of the adoption of a resolution by the plenary of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on 25/4, with which Turkey is again subjected to monitoring. The possible participation of the Turkish Foreign Minister – even if only to discuss another part of the Agenda – adds even more importance to “Gymnich”, which also explains the increased interest shown by international press.

Greece has taken a very careful attitude towards the issue of the Turkish referendum, avoiding being involved in Turkish internal affairs, and in favor of maintaining EU-Turkey relations within the accession framework, because through the accession process the EU has greater room for pressuring and influencing Turkey. At the same time, Greece is in favor of maintaining channels of communication and avoiding a direct confrontation between the EU and Turkey, with a view to addressing common challenges, predominantly of the immigration issue.

During the working lunch where Globalization and Challenges in the International Order of Rules will be discussed, it will be possible to exchange informal views on the new trends and challenges facing the Union’s foreign policy and, on the other hand, on the ways in which the EU should protect its principles and rules, which are compounded by multidimensional challenges such as multilateralism, free trade, climate change, and dissatisfaction / hostility caused by globalization.

In this regard, the views and positions of the main actors of the international system, such as the USA, China and Russia will also be discussed.

Finally, during the debate on the implementation of the EU Global Strategy on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Global Strategy), in the presence of the MFA of the candidate countries, enlargement is mainly presented as a tool that will help to strengthen the resilience of the candidate countries through the implementation of a “strict and fair conditionality”. At the same time, the common challenges the Union faces with candidate countries are underlined: immigration, energy security, terrorism and organized crime.

Another important aspect is that the importance of promoting political reforms, the rule of law, economic convergence and good neighborly relations through the accession process is recognized. In addition, a separate paragraph is devoted to the EU’s relations with Turkey and to the need for deepening sectoral cooperation, alongside the attempt to align Turkey with the accession criteria, including the normalization of relations with Cyprus.

The Gymnich debate is an opportunity for Greece, in the presence of the five candidates, to put forward the necessary criteria for the promotion of the accession process, such as: a) the need to respect good-neighborly relations and international law; b) the need to avoid nationalist and irredentist rhetoric (c) the confirmation of the accession process as the main framework of the Union’s relations with these countries; (d) the need to consolidate a democratic culture and political dialogue as a vehicle to enhance their resilience; and (e) Necessary reforms on the basis of the accession criteria. Finally, taking advantage of the presence of the Turkish FM in the Chamber, the debate will provide an opportunity to highlight EU-NATO cooperation (non-exclusion and autonomy in decision-making), as reflected in the Council Conclusions of 14 November 2016./IBNA