The European Union should not narrow the scope of its foreign policy cooperation with Turkey and Ukraine at a time when those countries have shown a will to conduct foreign policies that are not necessarily in line with those of the EU, Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Štefan Füle told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.
The new Ukrainian administration led by President Viktor Yanukovich has informed Brussels that there will be "no more automatism" for Ukraine to align with EU positions, Füle disclosed.
Days ago, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told the Brussels press that Ukrainian interests could be represented by Russia at the G8 summit. Last month, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Hryshchenko claimed before the country's parliament that being represented by Russia at international summits would be "in Ukraine's interests" (EURACTIV 28/06/10).
As for Turkey, the commissioner stressed that the country had been gaining considerable regional importance in recent months.
"If you look at Turkish foreign policy, it is expanding even faster than Turkish Airlines is expanding its global network," Füle said.
Indeed, Turkey has recently become very assertive vis-à-vis Israel, for example by carrying out the 'Cast Lead' operation against Hamas, which was launched in December 2008, and in particular following the recent bloodshed over the interception of a Turkish-sponsored flotilla carrying aid and pro-Palestinian activists towards the Gaza Strip (EURACTIV 31/05/10).
Turkey also has a policy of rapprochement with Iran, seen by many as counterproductive to the EU's efforts to convince Teheran that it should abandon its nuclear weapons programme (EURACTIV 17/11/10).
Füle, who is responsible for EU relations with Turkey as a candidate country and with Ukraine under the Neighbourhood Policy, said that more needed to be done to coordinate views on world affairs.
"I think it would be in the common benefit and in our interest to find a way of interacting in such a way as not to create additional questions, but to find answers to common challenges. It is an opportunity which needs to be seized," he said with respect to Turkey.
Regarding Ukraine, the commissioner said he hoped that its desire to pursue a foreign policy that is not necessarily aligned with the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy would "open the way for us to work on these issues," so as to have "at the end our positions if not the same, then at least as similar as possible, instead of narrowing the scope of our foreign policy cooperation".
Asked if new formats such as a 'European G20' would help address divergences between the EU on the one hand and Russia, Turkey and Ukraine on the other, he appeared to indicate that the idea had potential.
"The EU will look at the contractual arrangements with its neighbours, aspirant countries and strategic partners beyond the current institutional framework, and would try to address it through a European G-whatever the number is. I think it would be in the spirit of sharing the best experiences," Füle said.