World View: Tense Turkey-EU Summit in Bulgaria Once Again Ends in Failure

Tusk says no 'concrete solutions' in EU-Turkey talks

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Tense Turkey-EU summit in Bulgaria once again ends in failure
  • Other unresolved issues from the EU-Turkey summit meeting

Tense Turkey-EU summit in Bulgaria once again ends in failure

After a tense meeting that accomplished nothing, the EU and Turkish leaders posed for a silly photo opportunity where they pretend to be friends. From left to right: Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, European Council President Donald Tusk, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and European Commission President Jean-Claude Jüncker
After a tense meeting that accomplished nothing, the EU and Turkish leaders posed for a silly photo opportunity where they pretended to be friends. From left to right: Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, European Council President Donald Tusk, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Jüncker

Tensions between the European Union and Turkey have risen in the last year, including the EU referring to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “dictator” and Erdogan comparing the Dutch and German governments to the Nazis.

So there was a summit meeting on Monday in Varna, Bulgaria, attended by Erdogan, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Jüncker, as well as Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. The purpose of the meeting was to mend relations between Turkey and the EU.

There was a lot of angry rhetoric, and there were whole lists of issues on both sides that were left unresolved. However, neither side wanted to risk a total breakdown on relations, so they agreed to continue the EU-Turkey refugee deal, at least in part:

  • To control the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece, across the Aegean Sea, the agreement specified that Turkey would patrol its Aegean Sea beaches and prevent migrants from leaving shore. Turkey’s actions reduced the flow of migrants from millions in 2015 to hundreds of thousands in 2017.
  • The EU had promised to provide €6 billion to Turkey, for humanitarian assistance to Syrian migrants living in Turkey, in two separate €3 billion payments. However, only €1.8 billion has been provided so far, and Erdogan is demanding that the EU fulfill its promise.
  • Visa liberalization: The EU promised to allow all citizens of Turkey to have visa-free travel throughout Europe’s Schengen zone by the end of June 2016. The EU has never fulfilled this promise.

Erdogan has repeatedly expressed fury in particular that the visa-free travel has not been permitted. RTE (Ireland) and EU Observer and Reuters and Kathimerini (Athens)

Other unresolved issues from the EU-Turkey summit meeting

At the conclusion of Monday’s summit meeting, European Council president Donald Tusk said:

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.

EU accession continues to be a major point of hostility – the process of allowing Turkey to become a member of the European Union. There have been talks since 2005, but there has been enormous hostility on both sides historically rooted from the time when Turkey’s Ottoman Empire and European nations were at war. The talks were frozen completely following the failed coup in July 2016.

The most recent major new disagreement occurred two weeks ago when Turkey sent warships to block gas and oil exploration in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

Cyprus has been bitterly divided since a 1974 war, with Greek Orthodox Christian Greeks governing the south and Muslim Turks governing the north. The two sides are partitioned by a “no-man’s land,” a strip that stretches 112 miles across the entire island. Today, it is only the Greek government of Cyprus that is recognized by the EU and is a member of the EU.

Turkey has condemned actions by the Greek Cyprus government to drill for oil and gas without an agreement that Turkey should receive a share of the revenue.

In February, Turkish warships blocked an Italian company scheduled to drill in Cyprus’s territorial waters. Turkey said it would prevent any further drilling off Cyprus without the direct involvement of the Turkish Cypriots.

EU leaders made clear that the EU was in solidarity with Cyprus, and that it was necessary for Turkey to improve its relations with both Greece and Cyprus.

Another recent disagreement is related to the war in Syria, and to Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch, whose purpose is to take control of Syria’s northern border city of Afrin. The message from the EU has been mixed. Afrin was controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is linked to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK has conducted numerous violent terrorist acts on Turkish soil and is recognized as a terrorist group by the United States and the EU. So the mixed message from the EU in recent days was “you have a right to protect your border, but don’t go too far in killing or displacing civilians.” EU officials are giving the Afrin operation as another reason for a delay in further accession talks.

However, with regard to the military operation in Afrin, Erdogan said he expects the EU’s support in dealing with terrorists. Erdogan said:

It would be a grave mistake for Europe, which claims to be a global force, to push Turkey out of its expansion policy.

Our operations against terrorism not only contribute to the security of ourselves and the Syrians but also to the security of Europe.

We now expect strong support [from Europe] on sensitive issues such as the fight against terrorism instead of rambling and unjust criticism.

I hope that we together have taken the first step of restoring confidence between the EU and us [Turkey] today, but it is not enough to say that we took this step; it has to be taken in concrete terms.

We hope that we have left a difficult period in Turkey-EU relations behind.

Other issues raised by the European Union include concerns about the rule of law in Turkey, the mass jailing of journalists, and the jailing of two Greek soldiers who accidentally crossed the border from Greece into Turkey.

With regard to the Greek soldiers, European Commission president Jean-Claude Jüncker said that they should be released from jail before the Greek Orthodox Easter on April 8. (The Catholic Easter this year is on April 1.) To Vima (Athens) and AP (22-Mar) and Cyprus Mail and EU Observer and Hurriyet (Ankara)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, European Union, Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov, European Council, Donald Tusk, Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, European Commission, Jean-Claude Jüncker, Cyprus, Italy, Greece, Syria, Operation Olive Branch, Afrin
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