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ENC – FNFT Shaping the Future of Turkiye – EU Relations Together (2023)

The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC), with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) office in Turkiye, organized a Networking Trip in Brussels under the framework of the project titled “Shaping the Future of Turkiye – EU Relations Together”.

The objective of the trip was to give a comprehensive, innovative and progressive picture of Europe’s thematic priority areas to each of the distinguished Turkish opinion shapers, through a series of expert closed-doors roundtables, tailor-made one-on-one meetings, and public events held in Brussels. These inter-disciplinary meetings were held to discuss progressive strategies for the EU-Turkiye future while emphasizing the EU value-based priorities. Furthermore, the meetings were carefully coordinated and selected to yield skill transfer and serve the purpose of enriching opinion-shapers’ knowledge of new European policy initiatives, funds, or research.

The ENC and FNFT hosted 1 special guest and 8 eminent opinion shapers, namely Ece Temelkuran, novelist and political thinker; Nevşin Mengü, journalist; Can Selçuki, co-founder of the Istanbul Economics Research; Emre Keki, senior partner at PAE Law Office; İsrafil Özkan, director of the Freedom Research Association; Nayat Karaköse, programme coordinator at the Hrant Dink Foundation; Dr. Çiğdem Çımrın, co-founder of Minerva BHR; Dr. Özge Öner, associate professor at the University of Cambridge; and Yiğit Göktuğ Torun, project assistant at the Human Rights Academy and Türkiye-Europe Lectures at FNF Turkiye. The experts had a chance to discuss their individual fields of work and interests, their perspectives, and share their insights on, among other things, human rights due diligence, the impact of the recent devastating earthquakes, media freedom in Turkiye and the role of social media, civil society and minority rights.

In total, we held three official meetings with high officials and two events under the framework of the project, along with networking lunches and dinners. This productive week was kicked off with a meeting with Ferdinand Kopp (EEAS Turkiye Desk), where the upcoming Turkish elections and the response to the recent earthquake were discussed. The programme continued with a closed lunch briefing with the European Foundation for Democracy where the elections and the role of civil society were elaborated on in greater depth. Furthermore, the group attended a meeting with the European Liberal Forum, focused on the future of EU-Turkiye relations, which was followed by an event on the International Women’s Day 2023, organized by the European Neighbourhood Council and hosted by the MEP Nacho Sánchez Amor, titled “Disaster, Democracy and the Faces of Civil Society in Türkiye”. Right before the networking trip ended, Bernard Brunet, Head of the Turkiye Unit, hosted the opinion shapers at the DG Near premises, where the EU’s positive agenda on Turkiye with an emphasis on the Green Deal, trade, and migration was discussed. Additionally, the experts had an exceptional chance to network one-on-one with the EU officials, during multiple lunches and dinners organized during their visit.

The overarching goal of the trip was to strengthen ties among the civil society professionals from Turkiye and EU officials from the European Commission, the European External Action Service, and the European Parliament while promoting and shaping the future of EU – Turkiye relations. The passionate and engaging debates the experts sparked either with the EU officials or the general public showcased the importance of such training programmes and the need to stay connected, work together, and share knowledge and ideas at societal, political, economic, and academic levels.