This Dialogue organized by CIDOB (Barcelona Centre for International Affairs) and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation will discuss which are the opportunities for de-escalation, the content of the Positive Agenda with Turkey and on the type of alliances that are necessary for this strategy to deliver.
Since 2019, tension levels in the Eastern Mediterranean have increased significantly. 2020 has been a year of acceleration, but without reaching a final breaking point. Could this trend be reversed in 2021? By whom? This meeting aims at building a shared diagnose, identify opportunities and incubate or discuss concrete proposals for action.
The first step in this exercise is to understand where we are coming from. In 2020, tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean have intensified and alarms have been triggered. First, with Turkey's threat to repeat a new migration crisis just before the pandemic spread. And secondly, following the disputes over Exclusive Economic Zones, the unilateral explorations in disputed spaces and the signing of bilateral agreements with other coastal countries in a fait accompli policy. Adding to this, the unresolved Cyprus confict and the lack of prospects for resolution and overlapping it with other scenarios of tension such as Libya. This tension has spilled over into already strained relations between Turkey and the EU - with frozen accession negotiations and the threat of sanctions on the table - and within NATO - with the controversy over the purchase of the S-400 missile system. All of this has been coupled with the greater involvement of extra-regional actors such as France, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which has increased the complexity of the situation and the associated risks.
In 2021, the impact of the Biden administration, the post-pandemic recovery plans and the increasing geopolitical competition over vaccines add new elements to this equation. 2021 is a year of decisions, a turning point. The deterioration of the relations among Eastern Mediterranean countries could be irreparable and its effects would be felt in the internal cohesion of the EU and NATO. This would also negatively affect the security of the entire Mediterranean region and beyond (Caucasus, Sahel, Horn of Africa, etc.). On the other hand, given the risks of this escalation, it is also high time to explore different ways of acting. The European Council in March 2021 and the type of messages that are transmitted in its preparation will be indicative of the direction that the events will take from now on.
This reflection group shares the idea that a hostile relationship between Turkey and the EU is detrimental to both sides. And that doing nothing brings us even closer to this undesirable scenario. It is therefore desirable - although this raises nuances and questions about its feasibility and the strategy to be followed - to promote a more cooperative relationship based on dialogue. The group will discuss which are the opportunities for de-escalation, the content of the Positive Agenda with Turkey and on the type of alliances that are necessary for this strategy to deliver.