Online version | Was this email forwarded to you ? Sign up here
Every week The Briefing takes you across the continent with just one click.
Brussels and Ankara: It’s complicated

By Apostolos Staikos, from Euronews' Athens bureau

Ankara makes a choice. Brussels reacts. Ankara moves forwards anyway.

This could read as a short summary of the relations between the two sides in recent years. At every opportunity, Turkey shows no concern for any kind of European criticism coming its way.

The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque and the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty preventing violence against women, are just two of the latest examples of Ankara’s diplomatic disdain. After all, Turkey is used to verbal condemnations that are not matched by action.

Few people in Europe remember – or dare to remember – that the country is still an official candidate for EU membership. For many, Turkey is simply a wayward neighbour with whom we cannot afford to fight.

Critics of Ankara believe that "Erdogan only understands the language of economy" and argue that only economic sanctions can hurt Turkey. For months, Greece and Cyprus have been urging the EU-27 to impose punitive measures on Ankara for its illegal drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Instead, Athens and Nicosia receive sympathy, understanding and friendly pats on the back.

The reluctance from the EU and its tolerant attitude can be attributed to a number of factors. Chief among them migration – the number one toxic topic in European politics today.

To a large extent, the success of the EU’s migration policy depends on Ankara's mood and strategic aspirations. Brussels knows that President Erdogan can easily send thousands of asylum-seekers and refugees all the way to the Greek border. At the moment, he chooses not to do it. Yet, the Turkish president has repeatedly stated (often using a threatening tone) that he cannot keep four million refugees in his country forever.

In Europe, no one wants to relive the tragic images from 2015, when around 100 boats a day were arriving on Lesvos. No government, be it right or left-wing, wishes to see crowds of impoverished people crossing into North Macedonia, walking through the Balkans and heading towards Germany and other wealthy northern countries.

In fact, several EU member states continue to refuse refugees altogether or simply accept a very small number. Given the lack of solidarity, the presence of millions of migrants in Turkey seems to suit everyone: Europeans don’t have to worry about welcoming and resettling large numbers of refugees, while Erdogan receives significant financial aid and holds a strong bargaining chip in his hands.

Of course, there are other matters electrifying the atmosphere between Brussels and Ankara, such as human rights, the rule of law and the crackdown on Kurdish opposition parties. In this context, the EU-27 give the impression that they have no idea how to deal with a country that is trying to become the ruler of the Mediterranean. Turkey has led or helped military incursions in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, testing the limits of its NATO membership and straining relations with Egypt and Israel.

This week, EU-Turkey diplomacy hit another low point with the so-called ‘sofagate’ scandal. During a high-level meeting inside the White Palace in Ankara, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen bitterly realised that there was no seat for her next to European Council President Charles Michel and President Erdogan. Von der Leyen was eventually placed on a sofa, opposite the Turkish Foreign Minister, who she outranks. Many now say the Commission President got a taste of what it means to be a woman in Turkey. (FYI: here’s the latest on sofagate).

The awkward picture reflects the belief inside the Turkish government that Brussels is a dog that often barks, but never bites. Who can really disagree with them?



VIENNA HOPE The Iran nuclear deal might see another day, after all. A new round of negotiations, chaired by the European Union, is bringing the United States and Iran closer to a diplomatic breakthrough to restore the landmark agreement. However, for the time being, both parties are not speaking directly, but through intermediaries. Nima Ghadakpour explains what’s at stake in the Austrian capital.

ROMA EXCLUSION Europe counts about 12 million Roma, half of whom are EU citizens, making it the continent's largest ethnic minority. The marginalised community is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 since many of its members suffer from disabilities and chronic diseases. However, unequal access to healthcare and social isolation could put Roma people at the end of the vaccination list, writes Lillo Montalto Monella.

GIG ECONOMY If you’ve ever used an app to order a late-night food delivery or to book a plumber then you’ve most likely tapped into the platform economy. The exponential rise of the gig economy (an impressive five-fold increase in the last decade) offers new opportunities for workers, but also creates conditions that can easily undermine labour rights. Should the gig economy be regulated? In the latest episode of Real Economy, Naomi Lloyd looks into the debate.

AIRBNB SHIFT The pandemic has accomplished something that regulators have repeatedly tried and failed to achieve: to contain the growing dominance of Airbnb. Looking for a stable source of revenue, landlords are quitting the house-sharing platform and are now offering their apartments to local residents in the form of long-term contracts. At the same time, EU lawmakers are demanding stronger action. Elena Cavallone brings you the full story.

APRIL SNOW Many Europeans were shocked this week when, after several days of warm temperatures, snow began to fall (example: Brussels). Scientists are pointing the finger at the melting ice of the Arctic, arguing that, if current trends continue, continental Europe would be at risk of experiencing more cold snaps out of season. Luke Hurst has the full report.

NFT MANIA The online world has been suddenly caught up in a new trend: non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. Underpinned by blockchain technology, NFTs are a form of cryptocurrency, but instead of holding money, they contain assets like art and music with its own distinct value. Actress Lindsay Lohan has sold the NFT of her new song for more than 80,000 dollars. What explains this new online craze?


Life expectancy at birth fell in the majority of EU member states last year due to the pandemic, official data from Eurostat shows. The biggest drop was recorded in Spain, with a loss of 1.6 years, followed by Bulgaria, with a 1.5 years decrease. Lithuania, Poland and Romania also recorded significant drops.

The Nordic countries were the only ones to observe a rise in life expectancy, with Denmark and Finland recording a 0.1-year increase while Norway, a non-EU member state, earned a 0.3-year bump.

Members only: inside Romania’s 10-year-long bid to join Schengen

Romania has been part of the European Union since 2007, a long-coveted membership that has brought reforms, wealth and innovation into the country. But despite the transformational changes seen in the last decade, Romania is still not part of the Schengen area, the passport-free travel space that unites most EU countries. Staunch opposition from the Netherlands remains a major obstacle, but that’s far from the only obstacle preventing Bucharest from joining the club. Orlando Crowcroft examines Romania’s long and arduous quest for Schengen membership.
Street violence continues to spread in Northern Ireland: yesterday saw another night of riots on the streets of Belfast, with people attacking the police, setting fires and throwing petrol bombs over "peace gates" separating Nationalists and Loyalists. Experts have suggested this is the first evidence that Brexit turbulence may be boiling into unrest in the British province.
Thank you for reading The Briefing. If you’d like to continue receiving our news in your inbox, please sign up for our daily newsletter here.
© Euronews, all rights reserved. Euronews SA, 56 quai Rambaud, 69002 Lyon, France. 
You are receiving this email because you have subscribed to the Euronews newsletter. If you no longer wish to receive it, you can unsubscribe by clicking here
Want to receive the euronews daily newsletter? Subscribe here
In accordance with the French law relating to information technology, data files and civil liberties of January 6, 1978, you have at any time the right to access, rectify and delete any personal data concerning you, by writing to us through our « Contact » section.