The European Commission and the Council offered contradictory views on Friday (2 February) on whether conditions would be attached to holding an EU-Turkey summit in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna in March.
A source from the office of European Council President Donald Tusk told EURACTIV there were no conditions for the summit. Sources from the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU concurred. Bulgaria is strongly in favour of holding the summit. EURACTIV was told that the only issue is finding a date.
After all participants agree on the date, Council President Donald Tusk will announce the summit, the sources said. It will be held in the ‘Lisbon Treaty format’, meaning between the leaders of the three EU institutions (Council, Commission and Parliament), the rotating presidency and the EU foreign affairs chief representing the EU, and the Turkish President.
Turkey has been pushing for a summit with the EU for months, counting on the Bulgarian presidency to make it happen. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has repeatedly advocated maintaining good relations with Turkey, as a guarantee that EU’s borders with this country are secured in the best possible way.
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Sofia on 20 January, it became clear that she has no objections to holding the summit.
However, asked about its position on holding such a summit, the Commission said on 22 January that such a summit could only take place under certain conditions.
Commission spokesperson Alexander Winterstein repeated the same answer on Friday and referred to Juncker’s comments in Sofia on 12 January that EU-Turkey relations would not progress while Turkey held journalists in prison.
Authorities in Turkey have jailed more than 50,000 people and shut down some 130 media outlets in a major crackdown after a failed military coup in 2016.
Reportedly the agenda of the summit would be wide, and would not be focused on the refugee crisis, EURACTIV has learned. Turkey has expressed dissatisfaction with the disbursement of funds under the agreement to stem the flow of refugees to Greek islands from Turkish territory. EU officials say these issues could be solved.
After the publication of this article Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva called EURACTIV to say that preparations for the summit are ongoing and the main thing to be agreed is the date.