Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one of two senior Turkish officials who have made or are making trips to European Union countries in what analysts say is a diplomatic offensive to reset relations with the 28-member bloc.
The EU is Turkey’s No. 1 import and export partner. Relations between Ankara and the EU, however, have been strained in part over human rights in Turkey, a controversial referendum last year to extend his powers, refugee migration and Turkey’s quest for visa-free travel for its citizens across the EU.
Erdogan met Friday in France with counterpart Emmanuel Macron for talks on Syria and trade, and he signed a series of contracts. The two presidents also witnessed the signing of an agreement in which Turkish Airlines will purchase 25 jets from Airbus.
In a recent interview, Macron confirmed he regularly speaks with Erdogan, conversations that analysts say the Turkish president values. “The steps we have taken until now with Mr. Macron are all in the right direction and I have a lot of hopes in Mr. Macron,” Erdogan said to reporters before leaving for Paris.
Turkey has been seeking to join the European Union but cannot do so unless certain criteria required for membership have been met. Ahead of the Paris visit, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, speaking to the France 24 news channel, sent a message to the EU: “As Turkey, we see EU membership as a strategic aim; however, in recent years, not much progress has been made in this regard, due to several reasons. We want to overcome these troubles.”
Ankara’s ongoing crackdown following a failed coup in 2016 has resulted in tens of thousands of arrests and the jailing of dozens of people, including journalists. The crackdown threatens the collapse of the troubled relations with the EU.
Ahead of Erdogan’s visit, Macron offered thinly veiled criticism of Turkey. “Freedom of the press is not only being damaged in dictatorships but also in some democratic European states as well,” he told reporters.