European Council working on Turkey-EU summit to be held in March: EU official

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The foreign minister of Romania, the term president of the European Council until mid-2019, has said the bloc is working on a Turkey-EU summit to be held in early March, the Hürriyet Daily News reported on Monday.

Speaking in Brussels, Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu said the planned summit would take place in Bucharest with the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other officials.

Melescanu stressed his country’s support for Turkey’s accession to the EU and added: “We are working on the summit. Hopefully the summit will bring President Erdoğan and EU officials together. We have not set the date yet, but most probably it will be at the beginning of March.”

Melescanu said one of the priorities will be to again convene the Turkey-EU Partnership Council. “Our aim is to accelerate the talks in several topics. One of these topics is a possible update on the customs union,” he said.

Romania took over the EU’s rotating presidency on Jan. 1 and will be in charge for the next six months as the European Union faces a series of tricky tests — most notably Brexit, European parliamentary elections and wrangling over the next budget.

The partnership council — the highest decision-making body between Turkey and the EU — has not convened since the last summit in 2015.

Turkey-EU negotiations began in 2005, and so far Turkey has opened just 16 out of 33 negotiating chapters.

The last Turkey-EU summit convened in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna in March 2018, when Bulgaria was term president of the EU.

Erdoğan, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov joined the summit during which topics such as the refugee agreement between Turkey and the EU were discussed. EU officials, EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Neighborhood Policy Minister Johannes Hahn were also in Ankara in November for the Turkey-EU High Level Political Dialogue meeting.

In the meeting they discussed Turkey’s long-stalled membership bid and foreign policy issues of common interest, including US sanctions on Iran, the refugee crisis and the situation in Syria.

Although Ankara has been trying to keep the EU accession talks alive, the Erdoğan government’s actions usually draw harsh criticism from European leaders.

Most recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Jan. 11 said it would appear to be impossible for Turkey to become a European Union member in the near future, pointing to the country’s backsliding in freedom of thought, freedom of the press and religious freedoms.

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