The Latest: Erdogan says EU needs Turkey as member
The Associated Press
May 09, 2019 08:05 AM
A child walks by boards depicting the creation of the Bucharest EU Children Declaration, a call for EU leaders to make child participation a priority, by children supported by UNICEF in the Piata Mare square in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, Romania, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. European Union leaders hold an EU summit in Sibiu on Thursday to start setting out a course for increased political cooperation in the wake of the impending departure of the United Kingdom from the bloc.
The Latest on the European Union summit in Romania (all times local):
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country is “stubbornly” pursuing European Union membership despite efforts in some circles to keep Turkey out of “the European family.”
Erdogan attended a meeting in Ankara on Thursday to review the needed steps to advance Turkey’s EU membership bid. He said that without Turkey, the EU won’t effectively combat “existential threats” to its founding principles, such as Islamophobia and hostility toward migrants.
The EU relies on Turkey to stem the flow of asylum-seekers to Europe. In his speech, Erdogan accused the EU of leaving Turkey alone to shoulder the refugee burden. The country is home to 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
Turkey began EU membership negotiations in 2005 but the talks have stalled.
The head of the European Commission says Romania, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, must make further efforts to fully reach European standards on rule of law.
Jean-Claude Juncker’s comments Thursday came following internal political turmoil that has seen the country’s president and prime minister at loggerheads, and the head of its governing party convicted for vote-rigging and suing the EU.
The EU will continue dialogue with Romanian authorities, Juncker said as he arrived for an EU summit in the picturesque Transylvanian town of Sibiu. “They have to make efforts to reach the virtuous European crossroads.”
President Klaus Iohannis has openly acknowledged the effect of the political crisis on his country’s EU standing.
The leaders of the European Union, minus Britain, have agreed on a declaration to face the future as one tight, united bloc where common action will determine its success.
The 27 leaders said Thursday that they will “stay united, through thick and thin” and improve its common defenses. They vow to maintain strong democratic rule of law principles, which many say have come under pressure over the past years in nations from Hungary to Poland.
In what they call “the spirit of Sibiu,” in reference to the Romanian city where they met for the summit, they promise to stick together as one in a global environment “to make the most of new trading opportunities and to jointly tackle global issues such as preserving our environment and fighting climate change.”
French president Emmanuel Macron says that the European Union electorate faces a stark choice between building a common European future or a return to nationalism.
Macron said ahead of an EU summit in Romania that the rise of populism across the continent had put the choice in a stark light and will have to be addressed at the May 23-26 elections.
“The rift is there in all European nations,” he said.
“The alternative will be clear. Do we still want to continue building together, even if differently, to make things better,” he said. “Or do we want to deconstruct, destroy Europe and turn back to nationalism?”
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades is seeking support from other European Union leaders at an informal summit in Romania against Turkey’s bid to drill for hydrocarbons in waters where the Mediterranean island nation has exclusive economic rights.
Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said Anastasiades raised the issue during a Thursday meeting of the European People’s Party ahead of the summit, informing leaders about “Turkey’s blatant and unprecedented violations” of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
Prodromou said Anastasiades’ EPP counterparts “condemn the Turkish intervention (and) call on Turkey to abandon these illegal activities.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he would also bring up the matter, which was “a European issue and not just a Cypriot one,” adding that “international law cannot be violated.”
Turkey says its actions adhere to international law.
Even at a summit of unity, European Union leaders will always find something to disagree about.
The 27 EU nations, minus Britain, will be plotting a united way ahead in the wake of Brexit negotiations which have preoccupied the bloc for the past two years.
Britain is still nominally a member, but Prime Minister Theresa May is staying in London seeking a belated breakthrough to get the Brexit deal through the U.K. Parliament.
In the Romanian president’s hometown of Sibiu, the other EU leaders will be seeking to start dealing with the five-yearly rite of attributing top jobs, now that European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker are leaving later this year. It promises to be a mighty tussle.