The meeting of leaders of Turkey and the European Union scheduled for March 26 in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna appears set to go ahead, after a European Council meeting did not scrap the idea.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, speaking on March 23 after the Brussels meeting of EU leaders declared strong condemnation of Turkey’s recent actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, said that he expected that the March 26 summit would be a “very tough meeting”.
The EU-Turkey leaders’ meeting in Varna on March 26 will bring together Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, Borissov, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey.
“This working dinner 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,” according to a previous European Council note on the planned meeting.
“Leaders will also discuss how to move the EU-Turkey relationship forward, on the basis of mutual respect and common interests.”
Borissov, whose country currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU and who will host the meeting at the Euxinograd Palace in Varna, said that the meeting would be very tough because relations between the EU and Turkey had drastically worsened.
Hosting the meeting would be a great responsibility for Bulgaria, a demonstration of trust, but at the same time, there were great expectations, Borissov said.
Every country had firmly declared that dialogue with Turkey, in this case in Varna, should continue, he said.
Borissov said that Bulgarian citizens should be aware that the dialogue with Turkey was aimed at ensuring that three million migrants remained in that country and that the external borders were guaranteed.
There had been a question mark regarding whether the Varna meeting would go ahead, after European Council President Donald Tusk said in February that the March European Council meeting would have to decide whether the “conditions were there” for it to proceed.
Borissov said on March 22 that the Varna meeting was likely to be one of the last opportunities to maintain dialogue.
He said that his goal was to have the EU-Turkey migration agreement continued. He said that he would speak to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the detained Greek soldiers in Turkey.
The stance adopted by the European Council meeting was that it “strongly condemns Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea and underlines its full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece”.
“Recalling its conclusions of October 2014 and the Declaration of September 21 2005, the European Council urgently calls on Turkey to cease these actions and respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with EU and International Law.”
The European Council noted Turkey’s obligation to respect international law and good neighbourly relations, and to normalise relations with all EU member states including the Republic of Cyprus.
The European Council expressed its grave concern over the continued detention of EU citizens in Turkey, including two Greek soldiers, and calls for the swift and positive resolution of these issues in a dialogue with member states.
The European Council said that it would “remain seized” of these matters.