EU-Turkey summit falls short of expectations

The EU-Turkey summit in the Bulgarian city of Varna was supposed to bring the two sides closer together. But few concessions were made either on the subject of the customs union or on the lifting of visa restrictions for Turks. Some commentators see this as hardly surprising given Erdoğan's behaviour. For others, the meeting was nonetheless successful in one respect.

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Avgi (GR) /

No reconciliation with the sultan

A rapprochement between the EU and Ankara won't be possible with Erdoğan as Turkish president, Avgi observes:

“The many glaring differences between the EU and Turkey cannot be concealed by demonstrative handshakes. … As long as the president of Turkey behaves like a modern sultan, even if he diplomatically lowers his rhetorical weapons for a few hours (while his consorts and allies [in Afrin] make every effort to continue holding them dangerously high), there will be no prospect of resolving the many open issues. The continuing efforts of Erdoğan to establish himself as a strong regional player by any means only cause problems and increase the uncertainty in the entire restive Middle East region.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Bulgaria not just an onlooker

Ivan Krastev praises Bulgaria's initiative in organising the EU-Turkey summit in Varna as a major diplomatic success. In a commentary piece for 24 Chasa the political scientist writes:

“The small countries have learned from history that if they don't want to end up on the menu, they must take a seat at the negotiating table. The summit meeting in Varna was important because it demonstrated that as well as sitting at the negotiating table, small countries like Bulgaria can even bring bigger countries to sit down at their table. ... The fact that Borisov managed to bring Juncker and Tusk to Varna despite resistance from some of the 'big players' in the EU disproves the erroneous belief that the 'small players' have to sit on the sidelines when Brussels is dealing with foreign policy.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Erdoğan focussed on Moscow

For Turkey's president Putin's good will is more important than solidarity with the allies in the EU, Tagesspiegel concludes:

“Even during the summit Turkey demonstrated its political distance from Europe. With an explicit reference to its good relations with Moscow, Ankara did not join Turkey's allies in Europe and the US in expelling Russian diplomats. Turkey needs the Kremlin's good will in Syria. ... Moreover it became clear in Varna: Turkey and Europe know that the Turkish accession talks with the EU are a farce, but neither side wants to be the one to end them. ... Today Turkish-European relations are just about stabilisation at a low level and no longer about expanding or deepening them.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

No shortage of good will

Hürriyet Daily News still hopes relations can improve:

“The meeting in Varna manifested a willingness on both sides to maintain Turkey's EU anchor. ... But even without putting a name on it, relations between Turkey and the EU seem to be evolving on a transactional basis, as prospects are dim for the opening of any new negotiation chapters. As a result, in the upcoming weeks the key issue for Europe will be to figure out how to 'anchor' Turkey without abandoning European values. In that process, steps to 'normalize' post-coup Turkey will prove crucial in determining the future of relations between Ankara and Brussels.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

At least a good start

For 24 Chasa the summit was a success despite its meagre results:

“The positive tone during the talks and the joint photo at the end serve as proof that the dialogue between the EU and Turkey has resumed. The key point on which the interests of both sides converge, the refugee deal, was confirmed, and that was the main issue for Europe. No headway was made regarding the human rights violations of thousands of people detained in Turkey. Nevertheless, the fact that the EU was ready to sit down at the negotiating table with Erdoğan was a compromise that speaks in the Union's favour. All in all the summit meeting was not a diplomatic breakthrough, but it was a good start.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Junker out of his depth with Erdoğan

EU Commission President Juncker's regrets over the Union's poor relations with Turkey and the faltering Turkish accession process bear no relation to reality, Die Presse writes:

“In these stormy global times it's clear that Juncker is simply unable to cope when faced with the hard-edged power politics of an Erdoğan, a Putin or a Xi. It's reassuring that in Donald Tusk he has a President of the European Council at his side who has first-hand experience of living as a dissident under a dictatorship. In Varna too, it was Tusk who struck the right tone and maintained that while the EU shares with Erdoğan the goal of stabilising the Middle East, as far as concrete arrangements are concerned there can be no talk of reaching a mutual understanding.”

Duma (BG) /

Bulgaria, the shy host

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has missed an opportunity to conduct a serious conversation with Erdoğan, Duma rails, also complaining that Bulgaria received little support from the EU at the summit:

“Borisov ignored the demands of the president, other politicians and the public that he talk to Erdoğan about Turkey's interference in the country's internal affairs [during the last parliamentary election]. ... In view of the fact that Erdoğan himself had announced before the meeting that he would discuss bilateral topics and the future of the region with Borisov, the Bulgarian government's reserved stance was particularly noticeable. Bulgaria's security was an important focus of the summit meeting talks, Foreign Minister Zakharieva had said. But neither Tusk nor Juncker made any mention of the subject. We thought the EU was a community. Clearly all it's good for is empty talk.”