Thursday

13th Dec 2018

EU-Turkey summit ends with 'no solutions'

EU relations with Turkey remain tense following a meeting in Bulgaria where leaders from both sides outlined differences.

Speaking to reporters in the Black Sea resort of Varna on Monday (26 March), European Council president Donald Tusk said no solutions or compromises had been found between Ankara and the EU.

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"If you are asking me if we achieved some solutions or compromises, my answer is no. What I can say that is that I raised all our concerns, as you know it was a long list," he said.

Tusk, along with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgaria's prime minister Boyko Borisov, had met with Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as part of a broader effort to improve fraught relations.

The two sides found common ground on migration, an area of cooperation that appears only to underscore tensions elsewhere. Outstanding internal issues on rule of law, the mass jailing of journalists, Turkish assertive military forays in northern Syria, wider conflicts with Cyprus and the detention of Greek soldiers, remain unresolved.

EU leaders had only last week in a summit in Brussels roundly condemned Turkey's "illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea" and demanded that Ankara respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources.

The same message was repeated in Varna, with Erdogan stating that he had handed over information to the EU leaders to explain Turkey's position that he claims respects international laws.

"Not until the European Union stops being overly critical, in particular certain members of the EU, we will not be able to engage fully in improving the relations," said Erdogan.

He warned against isolating Turkey. He said its fight against terrorism is a buffer for the EU. He said that the EU needs to lift mandatory short stay visas on Turkish nationals, and that the EU has only doled out €1.8bn of the some €3bn promised to help refugees inside the country.

"Turkey respects fundamental human rights and is a country that respects human rights," he said, noting that Turkey still wants to become a member of the European Union.

Formal talks for membership started in 2005 but have been frozen since the widespread crackdown on dissent and opposition following the failed military coup in 2016.

Turkey maintains it is purging people behind the coup, which it has blamed on the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

But Juncker in the lead up to the meeting with Erdogan said he had "mixed feelings" of the meeting.

He appears to have maintained the sentiment, noting that the discussions were "frank", which is diplomatic code for disputatious.

He told Turkey to "have a new look at the imprisoning of journalists."

Juncker said Turkey should release the Greek soldiers before the Greek Orthodox Easter, on 8 April, and pressed that the EU was the first to express solidarity with Ankara in the immediate aftermath of the failed military coup in July 2016.

The two sides may meet again in June to continue talks.

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