On Monday, the EU leaders will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan amidst an uneasy climate. The European Union is expected to provide Ankara with the necessary funding to extend the deal concerning Syrian refugees, and at the same time it will attempt to deflect Turkish demands about deeper trade relations and visa-free travel in Europe.
The EU leaders were hesitant at first taking into consideration Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism and his recent intervention in Syria, but host country, Bulgaria agreed to the Summit, which will be held at the port city of Varna. The Summit is seen as a rare opportunity for dialogue with Turkey, which remains a candidate country for EU accession.
Turkey’s importance as a NATO ally was also highlighted, as well as its role in keeping in check immigration to Europe from the Middle East and Africa.
The EU bloc will be represented by EU Council President Donald Tusk and President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who noted that he has mixed feelings about the Summit due to the fact that the EU and Turkey have a difference of opinions on many matters.
It is worth reminding, that during a meeting in Brussels the European leaders condemned Turkey’s illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, in a standoff with Greece and Cyprus. However, Turkey’s minister for EU affairs, Omer Celik, said Ankara viewed the summit as “an important opportunity to move our relations forward” and that he expected “the same positive and constructive approach from the EU”.
According to EU officials and diplomatic sources, the Union is set to grant Turkey a second 3 billion euro installment to provide for the Syrians it hosts under a March 2016 deal to take in migrants fleeing the country’s war. On the other side, Erdogan’s trip to Varna is certain to attract criticism due to the human rights situation, which keeps deteriorating after the failed coup of 2016.
“The meeting in Varna is likely to be one of the last opportunities to maintain dialogue,” said Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, whose nation holds the EU’s rotating presidency.