Mounting challenges in EU-Turkey Relations: Defining Ways Forward

Hosted by MEP Ms. Frédérique Ries, Vice-Chair of the Renew Europe Group, on 20 November at the European Parliament

Full event concept note (PDF)


This event yielded a constructive conversation between  EU policy-makers, academics, civil society, and human rights experts, on the current state of political and humanitarian affairs in Turkey, while simultaneously demonstrating the impact that these developments have on the EU. This event considered the risks and opportunities ahead in EU-Turkey relations, and reflected on how the EU could develop strategic and evidence-based policies to maximise its added-value as a regional actor.  The conference was moderated by Ambassador Marc Otte, BIC President and Belgium Special Envoy for Syria.

Keynote Speakers:

  • • Mr. Kim Freidberg, Director, RELEX Directorate Enlargement, Security, Civil Protection, Foreign Affairs - Council of the European Union

  • •  Mr. Calin-Ionut Ungur,  Deputy Head of Division EU-Turkey Relations - EEAS

  • •  Ms. Amanda Paul, Senior Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre

  • •  Mr. Can Dündar, Turkish Journalist, Columnist and Documentarian Recipient of the International Press Freedom Award

More photos below.

Outcomes and Recommendations:

  • •  The EU should work to promote a stronger dialogue with Turkey in order to strategically and effectively operationalize a uniform policy towards Turkey. In past years, the EU’s fragmented policy towards Turkey has been characterized by overall divestment in the country and varying responses from EU Member States on issues such as human rights, migration and democracy in Turkey. By focusing on unifying the EU’s position on such issues, the EU can work to promote stronger relations with Turkey in the future.  By identifying shared strategic interests, such as a common refugee policy and partnerships to promote trade, the partnership between Turkey and the EU could be built to promote trade, stability and peace.


  • •  Dating back over 20 years, when Turkey first expressed interest in joining the EU, understanding the complex history of the EU-Turkey relations is essential in identifying the direction that the future of the partnership will take. Both domestic and international factors have influenced Turkey’s inconsistent vision towards the European Union. Fundamentally, the EU should aim to understand Turkey’s vision exists  beyond what the current regime has stated, noting that human rights, democracy and freedom of expression remain central to the ideology of the people in Turkey.


  • •  With Turkey hosting millions of refugees from around the region, the EU most continue to support and develop adequate tools to address the flows of populations into and out of Turkey, particularly with the current state of affairs in the region. The tenuous geopolitical dynamics between Turkey and Syria have immense impacts on the future of EU-Turkey relations and therefore the EU should reevaluate their policies towards Turkey, given recent developments that the country has taken. The EU must pursue dynamic policies to support peaceful mechanisms of problem solving based on diplomacy and dialogue with Turkey and ensure that further escalations are avoided.