European Union Delegation to Singapore

Turkey and the EU

31/08/2018 - 18:46
EU relations with Country

This page provides an outline of relations between the European Union and Turkey in a number of areas including political relations, economy and trade, human rights, migration and civil society dialogue.

The European Union is committed to enlargement, a strategic investment in peace, democracy, prosperity, security and stability in Europe.
Turkey remains a candidate country for the EU membership and a key partner in many areas of joint interest such as migration, counterterrorism, economy and trade.
Reacting also to the European Commission 2019 country report, the Council of the EU recalled in June 2019 that Turkey continues to move further away from the EU; noting that Turkey's accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen.
In addition, in July 2019, the Council of the EU adopted conclusions on the Turkish drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.
To become a member of the EU, a candidate country must bring its institutions, management capacity and administrative and judicial systems up to EU standards, both at national and regional level.
The EU uses the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to support Turkey as it makes its reforms in view of aligning with Community legislation and standards.
The EU has allocated €4.8 billion under the IPA 2014-2020 for Turkey. The priority sectors supported are:

  • democracy and governance
  • the rule of law and fundamental rights
  • environment and climate action
  • transport and energy
  • competitiveness and innovation
  • education
  • employment and social policies
  • agriculture and rural development and
  • regional and territorial cooperation.

The strategic priorities for financial assistance under these sectors are defined in the Indicative Strategy Paper for Turkey.

Turkey has sought closer economic ties with Europe since the creation of the European Economic Community in 1958. In 1963, both parties signed the Ankara Agreement, which aimed to strengthen economic ties and expand trade relations.

In 1995 the EU-Turkey Customs Union was implemented which, together with the accession negotiations have played key role in bringing the two economies closer together. They have also helped Turkey make substantial progress in the economic reform agenda.

Economic Reform Programmes

Like all the EU candidate countries and potential candidates, Turkey submits annually an Economic Reform Programme (ERP). The ERPs prepare the enlargement countries for their future participation in the EU’s economic policy coordination procedures. They also play a key role in improving economic policy planning and steering reforms to sustain macroeconomic stability, boost competitiveness and improve conditions for inclusive growth and job creation.

The ERPs contain medium-term macroeconomic projections (including for GDP growth, inflation, trade balance and capital flows), budgetary plans and a structural reform agenda for the next three years. The structural reform agenda includes reforms to boost competitiveness and improve conditions for growth and job creation in a wide range of areas (energy and transport markets; sectoral development; business environment and reduction of the informal economy; research, development and innovation and the digital economy; trade-related reform; education and skills, employment and labour markets; and social inclusion, poverty reduction and equal opportunities).

The EPRs are assessed by the European Commission and serve as a basis for the Economic and Financial Dialogue.

High Level Economic Dialogue

The third EU-Turkey High-Level Economic Dialogue took place in February 2019 with the participation of Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, Commissioner Bulc and Turkey's Ministers Albayrak, Pekcan and Turhan. The Dialogue aims to enhance economic relations through developing a mutual understanding of economic policies and reform agendas.

Investing in Turkey

The EU is Turkey's largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI), accounting for about two-thirds of FDI inflows to the country between 2008 and 2017. The most important investor states in Turkey are consistently EU countries.

Key Investment Figures:

  • The EU's share of Turkey's total FDI inflow was, on average, 65.5 % annually between 2008 and 2017
    • The EU accounted for 65.0% of FDI inflows to Turkey in 2017
  • On average, the EU attracted 52.8% of Turkey's FDI outflows annually between 2008 and 2017
    • The EU was the destination for 51.6% of Turkey's FDI outflows in 2017
  • As of December 2015, there were 24,642 companies operating in Turkey with capital from the EU (37% of all companies established by foreign capital in the country).

The EU-Turkey Customs Union came into force on 31 December 1995. It covers all industrial goods but does not address agriculture (except processed agricultural products), services or public procurement. Separate set of bilateral trade concessions apply to agricultural, as well as coal and steel products.

In addition to providing for a common external tariff for the products covered, the Customs Union foresees that Turkey is to align to the acquis communautaire in several essential internal market areas, notably with regard to industrial standards.

Mutual benefits

Both parties have now eliminated all customs duties and charges on their trade with each other. They have also removed restrictions on the amount of goods that can be traded.

The Customs Union has helped to:

  • bolster the growth of EU-Turkey trade and investment
  • promote Turkish productivity gains, and
  • further Turkey's alignment with the EU laws.

The Customs Union has also encouraged the integration of Turkish firms into European production networks and stimulated the modernisation of Turkey's customs administration.

Key trade partners

The EU is Turkey's number one import and export partner, accounting for 42.1% of Turkey's total trade in 2018. The EU received 50.0% of Turkey's exports and was source of 36.2% of Turkish imports. In comparison, Turkey is the EU's 5th most important trade partner, accounting for 3.9% of total EU trade in 2018.

Trade in numbers:

  • Total EU-Turkey trade in goods amounted to €153.4 billion in 2018
  • The EU imported €76.1 billion worth of goods from Turkey in 2018
  • The EU exported €77.3 billion worth of goods to Turkey in 2018

Useful Links

The EU Delegation to Turkey and the EU diplomatic missions to the country adopted an EU Local Strategy to support and defend human rights defenders in Turkey.

The strategy was drafted with input from Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). It provides operational guidelines for EU Missions to implement the EU's Guidelines for Human Rights Defenders. Under the strategy, regular meetings take place with EU missions, HRDs and

NGOs. In addition, a liaison officer has been appointed to secure local assistance when needed.

Along with the guidelines, financial support for human rights defenders is also provided under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). €37.5 million has been allocated for the period of 2014-2020.

Useful contacts

For assistance or more information about the local strategy, please contact:

Focal Points on Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders:

  • Ms. Maria Ververidou, Political Counsellor

EIDHR Aspects of Work with HRDs

  • Ms. Eser Canalioğlu Çınar

Gender Focal Point:

  • Ms. İpek Seda Geçim

Disabilities Correspondent:

  • Mr. M. Caner Demir

The cooperation between the EU and Turkey in the area of migration plays an important role in achieving the objectives set out in the Commission's European Agenda on Migration. The EU-Turkey Statement, agreed by the European Council and Turkey on 18 March 2016, constitutes one of the main pillars of this cooperation. The Statement is aimed at preventing deaths at sea, breaking the business model of the smugglers and offering Syrians in need of international protection safe legal pathways to the EU. In order to support more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey and their host communities, €6 billion was mobilised under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. The Facility aims at ensuring that the needs of refugees and host communities in Turkey are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. The effective implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement has proved to be crucial in saving lives at sea and addressing the challenges brought about by the migratory situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Visa Liberalisation Dialogue and Readmission Agreement

In 2013, the EU and Turkey launched the Visa Liberalisation Dialogue (VLD). The objective of the VLD is to make progress towards the elimination of the visa obligations currently imposed on the Turkish citizens who intend to enter the EU’s Schengen area for visits up to 90 days within any 180 days.

The VLD is based on a Roadmap, which sets out the benchmarks that Turkey has to meet before its citizens are granted visa-free travel to the Schengen Area for short stays. The process would in turn allow citizens of those EU countries that currently need a visa for short stays to enter Turkey visa-free.

The EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement was signed in December 2013 in parallel with the launch of the VLD. The main objective of this agreement is to establish reciprocal procedures for the readmission of persons, including third country nationals, who do not fulfil the conditions for entry to, presence or residence in the territory of the EU Member States and Turkey.

Supporting civil society is a priority area in the EU’s relations with Turkey. A dynamic civil society can help shape government policy and make sure that the voices of people are heard.

As laid down in the Revised Indicative Strategy Paper for Turkey 2014-2020, EU support to civil society has three objectives:

  • supporting the development of civil society so that it plays a more active role in democratic policy and decision-making processes;
  • promoting a culture of fundamental rights and dialogue; and
  • enhancing dialogue and cultural exchange between civil societies in Turkey and Europe.


The EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) places specific emphasis on the need to support the development of Turkey’s civil society and to encourage EU-Turkey Civil Society Dialogue.

Civil Society is a specific sub-sector of IPA II under the chapter 'Democracy and Governance' of the Country Strategy Paper on IPA Assistance to Turkey.

Actions managed by both the Turkish authorities and the EU Delegation in this area mainly focus on projects that strengthen:

  • an enabling legal and policy environment, for the exercise of the rights of freedom,  expression,  assembly and association;
  • an enabling financial environment which supports sustainability of CSOs;
  • civil society–public sector cooperation in the country based on willingness, trust and mutual acknowledgment around common interests; and
  • civil society development and sustainability.
  • actions towards supporting an EU-Turkey civil society dialogue

IPA assistance for civil society is also managed by the EU Delegation to Turkey through the Civil Society Facility (CSF). The CSF supports actions that empower civil society and ensure its active participation in public debate on democracy, human rights, social inclusion, the rule of law, etc.

EIDHR’s role

The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) provides direct financial support to Civil Society organisations. The objective is to nurture and consolidate democracy, support the rule of law, and strengthen respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Turkey's geographical position makes it the first reception and transit country for many refugees and migrants. The country hosts more than three million registered Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict in their homeland. Other registered refugees are mainly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Financial support

The EU is committed to helping Turkey deal with this issue. It is the leading international donor responding to the Syrian crisis, providing a total of €9 billion from the EU budget and Member States collectively. The funding has been allocated for humanitarian and development assistance since the start of the conflict in 2011.

The European Commission alone has provided more than €3.4 billion of assistance to support vulnerable refugees who have fled violence. The money has gone towards both immediate humanitarian assistance and non-humanitarian aid.

In order to coordinate financial assistance, the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey entered into force in March 2016. The Facility is designed to ensure that the needs of both refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. It is active in six priority areas:

  • humanitarian assistance
  • migration management
  • education
  • health
  • municipal infrastructure, and
  • socio-economic support.
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