BY 16 EU FOREIGN MINISTERS* euobserver.com
BRUSSELS - At a time when the EU faces economic challenges and continuing instability in the Middle East, our relationship with Turkey matters more than ever.
Last week saw the 50th EU/Turkey Association Council, which demonstrated the need to work together to promote our shared prosperity, security and values.
In these tough economic times, increasing trade with Turkey offers opportunities for EU businesses. With a GDP growth rate of 8.5 percent last year, the second fastest in the G20 after China, Turkey is now the EU’s fifth largest export market.
Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe run businesses worth €40 billion, employing half a million people. In sectors like aviation, automobiles and electronics, our economies are increasingly integrated.
Turkey is well placed to become an energy hub, with both sides benefiting from projects to build the necessary infrastructure, including development of the Southern gas corridor.
The commercial relationship is strong, but could be stronger. While EU-Turkey trade has grown steadily, Turkey's trade with other regions has grown even faster.
This is partly a symptom of the wider shift of economic power to Asia, but also reflects problems with the EU-Turkey customs union and other trade restrictions that prevent our commercial relationship from achieving its full potential.
Removing these restrictions should form an important part of wider efforts to boost economic growth, building on the recent G20 Summit and on the European Council later this week.
We welcome the very recent agreement on a path towards visa liberalisation, linked to broader co-operation on migration. This has the potential to promote trade, combat illegal immigration and support wider people to people contacts.
Here, signature by Turkey of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement would be a crucial step on the way towards fulfilling Turkish citizens' aspirations to travel more freely in Europe.
As the dialogue between the EU and Turkey on mobility and security grows, we hope to see further concrete results. In this framework, we hope Turkey will extend visa free travel to EU member states.