A decision will be taken at the European Council meeting on March 22 and 23 whether the “conditions are there” for the EU-Turkey leaders summit scheduled for March 26 in Bulgaria’s main Black Sea city Varna to go ahead, European Council President Donald Tusk said.
The Varna summit between a Turkish delegation headed by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the leaders of the EU has been a pet project of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, whose country currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.
Speaking after EU leaders held an informal meeting on February 23, Tusk said “we are ready to co-operate with Turkey”, adding that the decision on the Varna meeting would be taken at the European Council a few days before the scheduled date for the meeting.
Tusk said that at the February 23 meeting, Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras had informed the EU leaders about the latest developments regarding Turkey’s illegal violations in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Aegean.
“On behalf of all the EU leaders, I would like to express our solidarity with Cyprus and Greece, and urgently call on Turkey to terminate these activities,” Tusk said.
“I reiterate our support for the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources, in accordance with EU and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.
These actions contradicted Turkey’s commitment to good neighbourly relations and their normalisation with all EU countries, Tusk said.
According to an announcement earlier in February by the European Council, the March 26 EU-Turkey leaders meeting in Varna is to be attended by, among others, Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Bulgarian PM Borissov and Turkish president Erdoğan.
“This meeting will be an occasion to assess matters of mutual interest and recent developments in Turkey, including in the area of rule of law and fundamental freedoms,” the February 5 statement said.
Leaders would also discuss how “to move the EU-Turkey relationship forward, on the basis of mutual respect and common interests”.
The statement said that the March 2018 Varna meeting would build on the previous leaders’ meeting of May 25 2017 and the discussions that have taken place since then.
High-level dialogues between the EU and Turkey have taken place on transport, economic co-operation, counter-terrorism and foreign policy, the statement noted.
At the European Council meeting of October 19 2017, EU leaders held a debate on relations with Turkey.
While they emphasised their full commitment to the cooperation with Turkey on migration, they also tasked the European Commission to reflect on whether to cut and re-orient pre-accession funds given the situation in the country.
(Main photo of Tusk at the February 23 2018 meeting: EU)