The EU and Turkey failed to reach any “concrete solutions or compromises” in talks on Monday aimed at patching up their tattered relations, EU President Donald Tusk said after the meeting.
“If you are asking me if we achieved some solutions or compromises, my answer is no,” Tusk said in Bulgaria following the talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.
“What can I say is that I raised all our concerns. As you know, it was a long list including the rule of law and press freedom in Turkey, and Turkey’s bilateral relations with member states, also the situation in Syria,” he said.
“Today our meeting was dedicated to continue our dialogue and we agreed that … we should continue our dialogue in really difficult circumstances,” he told a news conference with Erdogan and Juncker in Varna.
“My position is clear, only progress on these issues will allow us to improve EU-Turkey relations including the accession process,” he added.
Erdogan reiterated comments from earlier in the day that his country still wanted to join the bloc but said he did not want “unfair criticisms.”
“We hope that we have left a very difficult period behind in Turkey-EU relations behind us,” Erdogan said.
“We don’t want rambling or unfair criticisms on sensitive issues like the fight against terror, we expect strong support,” he said.
Relations have worsened — and Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU have become more remote — in the wake of Erdogan’s crackdown following an attempted coup against him in 2016.
Turkey’s ongoing military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Syria have also raised concerns in European capitals.
Temperatures were also raised further last week after EU leaders condemned Turkey’s “illegal actions” toward Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.
Ankara and Brussels had in March 2016 agreed a controversial deal to stop the flow of migrants, in what was seen as a landmark in cooperation and which Turkey hoped would yield visa free travel to Europe.
So far this incentive has not been realized, however, to Ankara’s frustration.