A European Union-Turkey summit will be held on March 26 in the Bulgarian port city of Varna with the attendance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an EU spokesman said Tuesday, amid efforts to improve strained ties.
EU Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose country currently holds the bloc's presidency, will meet Erdoğan "to discuss EU-Turkey relations as well as regional and international issues," Tusk's spokesman tweeted.
The meeting held at the leaders' level will be hosted as a working dinner, a statement signed by Tusk and Juncker said.
This gathering will serve as away for the EU and Turkey to improve their friendship and an "opportunity to assess matters of mutual interest and recent developments in Turkey, including in the areas of rule of law and fundamental freedoms," it added.
Relations between Turkey and the EU, particularly with Germany, have been strained over a range of issues.
Ankara 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, particularly against the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which carried out the failed July 15 coup attempt.
Regarding the customs union agreement, European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri said that the majority in European Parliament is in favor of modernization, "however, before that, we expect serious signals from Turkey regarding its commitments to EU standards."
Ankara's customs union agreement with the EU came into force in 1995. Both Turkey and the EU seek to expand the scope of the agreement, which would have positive effects on trade relations in various industries. However, Turkey's worsening relations with Germany have crippled the process.Although it was one of the first countries to join the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1959, and applied for full EU membership in 1987, Turkey still has candidate country status. In the meantime, many countries in Europe have been accepted as EU members, despite applying much later than Ankara.
Official accession talks with Ankara began in 2005. However, negotiations stalled in 2007 due to objections from Greek Cyprus concerning the divided island of Cyprus, as well as opposition from Germany and France. Since then, Turkey has only fulfilled and closed one of 16 opened chapters of the Copenhagen criteria.