On March 3, 2016, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkir for a roundtable discussion on Turkey-EU relations and the multiple crises facing Turkey and the region. The conversation was moderated by GMF’s Transatlantic Academy Fellow Sir Michael Leigh.
Turkey faces multi-dimensional challenges from the Black Sea to Iraq, Syria, and North Africa. Violent conflict in the Middle East, as well as a deteriorating relationship with Russia, have a critical impact on Turkey’s regional security position. Violence and terrorism within Turkey itself and the preservation of fundamental rights and freedoms pose major challenges. The EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan to control refugee flows to the EU could have a positive impact on relations with the EU if implemented effectively. A successful outcome to the talks seeking a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem would be a major breakthrough. For Europe and the United States, Turkey’s support is crucial across a range of issues from refugees to armed confrontation with the self-proclaimed Islamic State group and other terrorist groups.
Bozkir’s comments focused on these core elements, specifically the economic crisis, the migration crisis, and the threat posed by terrorism. In addressing the current economic situation within Europe, Bozkir touched on the persistence of economic problems, and reiterated that “the EU and Turkey need each other more than ever.”
The conversation then turned to the migration crisis. As Turkey hosts over 2.5 million refugees, Bozkir suggested that the status quo is unsustainable. A path forward must see a comprehensive approach addressed by all countries in the region and in Europe. While Bozkir highlighted that Turkey must play a vital role due to its geographic location, he repeatedly emphasized the need for shared responsibility.