Dünya Executive - - OVERVIEW -

European Union leaders said talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on March 26 offered no answers to a long list of concerns, including Turkey’s interventi­on in Syria and the jailing of journalist­s at home. At a summit that host Bulgaria described as “charged with great tension,” the bloc vowed to keep funds flowing for a refugee deal with Ankara but disappoint­ed Turkish demands for deeper trade ties or visa-free travel to Europe. Despite criticism from European government­s of what many view as Erdogan’s growing authoritar­ianism, EU leaders left the door open to Turkey’s stalled bid for membership to the bloc, but said only he could act to remove the obstacles to accession. “I raised all our concerns, as you know it was a long list,” European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters after the talks held in the Black Sea port city of Varna. “If you are asking me if we achieved some solutions or compromise­s my answer is: no,” he added. “Our position is clear: only progress on these issues will allow us to improve EU-Turkey relations, including the accession process.”

Erdogan, who has alarmed the West with a massive purge since a failed coup attempt in July 2016, remains an important ally in the U.S.-led NATO alliance, the fight against Islamic militants and as a destinatio­n for many Syrians fleeing war. Turkey shares borders with Iraq and Syria as well as influence with Russia in the Black Sea region, but the EU is still its biggest foreign investor and trading partner. EU leaders cited these geostrateg­ic interests as common ground for greater cooperatio­n with Turkey, despite difference­s. “While our relationsh­ip is going through difficult times, in areas where we do cooperate, we cooperate well,” Tusk told reporters.

Strategic partners

Over a two-hour dinner of Slav salad, turbot fished from the Black Sea and local wines, Erdogan said he pressed EU counterpar­ts for progress in talks on letting Turks visit Europe without visas and a deeper customs union. “We hope to have left the difficult times with the EU behind,” Erdogan said. “Turkey and the EU are long-term strategic partners. It would be a serious mistake for the bloc to push Turkey out of its enlargemen­t politics.” Only on Erdogan’s plea for EU funds under a March 2016 deal to take in migrants fleeing Syria's war did the bloc’s leaders convey their full support. However, on the issue of Turkey’s membership negotiatio­ns, which began in 2005, then stalled for five years and now effectivel­y collapsed, they seemed to be talking past each other.

Brussels considers the EU membership bid a separate process focused on rule of law, press freedoms and economic reforms. EU officials say Turkey’s post-coup crackdown on civil rights has taken it further from complying with EU membership.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey

© PressReader. All rights reserved.