EU facing 'major challenges' in dealing with Turkey, say Macron, Merkel

The EU is facing "major challenges" in dealing with NATO ally Turkey and Russia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.

The pair made the remarks during a meeting to discuss European issues, ranging from ties with Moscow to the block’s battle against COVID-19 variants, ahead of an EU summit next week, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

"On the one hand, there are differences of opinion. On the other hand, we are dependent on each other if we want to shape certain issues together,’’ Merkel said, speaking on Turkey. "That is the migration issue, that is the issue of the future of Libya, that is the issue of the future of Syria." 

Turkey has been an official EU candidate country since 1999 and has maintained a customs union deal with the bloc since January 1996. Accession negotiations formally began in October 2005, however have stalled in the last few years due to what is being called Turkey’s failure to comply with required criteria pertaining to the EU candidacy.

In 2016, at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, Turkey agreed to take back people who travelled to Greece irregularly and take steps to limit the crossings. In return, the EU promised to provide funds to support the near four million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Turkey is heavily involved in Libya and the main backer of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) against Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), which is supported by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Turkey also maintains a military presence in neighbouring Syria, where it has launched multiple operations targeting Kurdish forces linked to an insurgency on its own soil.