Turkey, EU summit likely as leaders look to address disagreements

Published 19.01.2018 00:00
According to news reports in Germany, a possible EU-Turkey summit is expected to be held in March prior to the end of Bulgaria's six-month term presidency of the council of the EU.
According to news reports in Germany, a possible EU-Turkey summit is expected to be held in March prior to the end of Bulgaria's six-month term presidency of the council of the EU.

Ankara and Brussels are expected to hold a summit to address the long-standing disputes and improve cooperation

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and leaders from European Union member states are expected to meet in an EU-Turkey summit in the upcoming months as the two sides have been showing signs of reconciliation.

According to news reports published in German media, a possible EU-Turkey summit is expected to be held in March to address the long-standing disputes between the two sides as well as seeking cooperation and lucrative interests. The leaders aim to hold the summit prior to the end of Bulgaria's six-month term presidency of the council of the EU.

As the German Die Welt reported, the EU will be represented in the summit by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Parliament (EP) President Antonio Tajani and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. It is reported that according to diplomatic sources the two sides might enhance cooperation in the fight against terrorism, migration policies and energy, while the issues of upgrading the Customs Union and visa exemption remain a difficult task to handle.

"A summit between the EU and Turkey in June ahead of the EU summit is under consideration. There are expectations in this direction," Faruk Kaymakcı, Turkey's permanent representative to the EU, also told Anadolu Agency (AA).

The EU leaders are expected to gather on Jun. 28-29 and the bloc's enlargement policy is expected to be one of the main agenda items of the event.

Relations between Turkey and the EU, particularly with Germany, have been strained over a range of issues. Turkey has been stressing that the EU fails to understand the challenges that the county faces and calls on all sides to take Turkey's concerns into consideration.

In relation to the issue of upgrading the Customs Union and opening new chapters in Turkey's EU bid, the two sides fail to find common ground. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has been stressing that to "re-establish a trusting relationship," the EU should "honor its promises" on major issues such as the modernization of the Customs Union, visa liberalization and the full disbursement of financial help promised to cover the cost of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Turkey's relations with Germany, which affected its relations with the whole union as well, went downhill following last year's failed coup attempt in Turkey.

German politicians have been outspoken critics of Turkey's security crackdown since the coup, which saw thousands of Turkish nationals jailed over links with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), including around a dozen German nationals in the probe targeting various terror groups.Ankara has criticized Berlin for not handing over asylum seekers it accuses of involvement in the failed coup, which led to the deaths of 250 people while injuring 2,200 others. Turkey has also blasted Germany for turning a blind eye to the activities of terrorist group PKK.

However, the recent reconciliatory steps from both sides have signaled a possibility in thawing of the ties.

"We have the intention of having better negotiations with Turkey again. This will be for the benefit of Turkey, Germany and Europe," German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Jan. 17.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently highlighted the cooperation with Turkey in the refugee crisis and defended the refugee agreement between Turkey and EU, saying, "I was very surprised to see a lot of criticism directed at the EU-Turkey agreement when we concluded it." Merkel underlined the significance of the deal in preventing irregular migration.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz in Berlin, Merkel added that the agreement proved successful in protecting EU's external borders.

"I don't think that we can leave it to human traffickers and smugglers to decide who can arrive in Europe and who cannot," she added. She also called for more efforts in overcoming current problems in the resettlement of refugees from Turkey and other countries hosting millions of refugees from conflict regions. "We must achieve more through resettlement, through cooperation with the UNHCR and agreements with the respective countries," she said.Merkel has long been a key supporter of the EU-Turkey agreement clinched in March 2016 to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by establishing stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Although the plan has successfully reduced irregular migration flows and came as a significant relief for Merkel in domestic politics, the EU has failed to timely deliver the promised funding for refugees in Turkey.

The EU's plans to resettle refugees have largely stalled due to reluctance among member states. Turkey hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country in the world. Ankara says it has spent more than 20 billion euros ($24.1 billion) from its own national resources for helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

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