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26 March 2018 EU-Turkey Summit

On 26 March, European Council President Donald Tusk, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea city of Varna, Bulgaria.

During the Summit, the EU and Turkey reaffirmed their commitment to keep the channels of communication open and to continue cooperating in areas of common interest including security and immigration. “On migration and support for refugees the EU and Turkey remain very close partners,” Tusk told reporters after the meeting, reaffirming the bloc’s “unwavering commitment to continue” with payments under a 3 billion-euro financial support package agreed two years ago.

Concerning Ankara’s disputes with Greece and Cyprus, no progress was achieved, President Tusk expressed “serious concerns about inter alia recent Turkish actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea as well as the detention of EU citizens”, adding that “the European Union stands united behind the Republic of Cyprus regarding its right to explore and exploit its natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone”. This declaration comes after the EU leaders “strongly” condemned Turkey for obstructing exploratory drilling off the coast of Cyprus and the ever more frequent clashes over Greece’s territorial waters on 23 March. On Syria, Tusk expressed EU concerns about Turkey’s actions in Afrin stressing that “escalating violence and displacement in an already tragic and volatile situation must be avoided. And recalled Turkey’s responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need.”

Erdgogan reiterated Turkey’s desire to join the EU on its own terms, while seeking concessions on visa-free travel and a customs union upgrade, without committing to EU entry criteria on human rights and judicial independence. “For Europe which is vying to become a global power, it would be a grave mistake to exclude Turkey from its expansion policies,” Erdogan said at the same briefing.

On March 23, EU leaders “strongly” condemned Turkey for obstructing exploratory drilling off the coast of Cyprus and the ever more frequent clashes over Greece’s territorial waters. They also called for the release of two Greek soldiers who, Athens sayed, arrested this month after crossing the border into Turkey in bad weather during a routine patrol.