Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has written to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov to express his gratitude for the EU-Turkey summit that was held in Varna on March 26, the government information service in Sofia said on April 17.
In the letter, Erdoğan described the meeting as “an important stage in mutual efforts to overcome the difficult and restless period in Turkey-EU relations.”
“The active position and the far-sighted leadership that you showed in the framework of the Bulgarian Presidency are worthy of respect,” Erdoğan said, according to the Bulgarian government statement.
Erdoğan said that he hoped that the lengthy talks held before the summit would also be a cause for positive developments in bilateral relations, and close co-operation at regional and international levels will continue to deepen.
At the Varna summit, the EU was represented by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Borissov, whose country currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The EU leaders and Erdoğan discussed co-operation on the management of migration flows, the shared interest in combating terrorism, the rule of law in Turkey, Turkey’s recent actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea, and Turkey’s involvement in Syria.
At the time, Tusk said: “Our meeting today demonstrated that while our relationship is going through difficult times, in areas where we do co-operate, we co-operate well. We reconfirm our readiness to keep up the dialogue and consultations and to work together to overcome current difficulties with a view to unleashing the potential of our partnership”.
A European Council statement at the time said that both sides had agreed to continue close co-operation on migration. The EU has reiterated its commitment to offer further support to improve the situation of refugees in Turkey, the statement said.
The EU voiced its concerns regarding Turkey’s actions in Syria, especially in the northwestern region of Afrin, controlled by the Turkish military and its allies. The EU asked Turkey to ensure the protection of civilians and facilitate access for humanitarian aid.
Tusk expressed concerns about Turkey’s recent actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Sea, which EU leaders had described as “illegal” at their recent EU summit in Brussels.
They also recalled Turkey’s obligation to respect good neighbourly relations and normalise relations with all EU member states. This is the condition for moving forward EU-Turkey relations, including the accession process, the European Council statement said.
The leaders discussed Turkey’s actions in the aftermath of the attempted coup in July 2016. They said they understood Turkey’s need to ensure its security. However, they underlined that as an EU candidate country, Turkey has committed to upholding the highest standards of democracy.
“We are concerned that some of the methods used, undermine fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Turkey,” Tusk said.