EU to seek summit with Turkey next month

Brussels — The European Union will seek to hold a summit meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the first half of next year to discuss the testy relations between the two, the 28-nation bloc’s president said Thursday.

EU President Donald Tusk said at the end of the EU summit that he was given “a mandate” to set up a meeting between the leaders of EU institutions and Turkey over the next months. He said no date or place had been set.

The 28-nation EU and Turkey have a deal under which Turkey makes sure to stem the flow of migrants into Europe in return for billions of euros to take care of them there. However, Turkey and the EU have been at loggerheads about Turkey’s security crackdown since a failed coup in July.

Tusk office said that the summit would likely be held after a regular EU summit in March.

Earlier this week, EU countries expressed deep concern about Turkey’s crackdown but stopped short of officially freezing membership talks with the country — a move that is favored by Austria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the migrant deal’s main architects, stressed the importance of keeping lines of communication open.

“I don’t think threats are the right answer,” she said.

While EU members don’t currently plan to open any new chapters in the long-running membership negotiations, “everyone was aware that even if we have very critical remarks to make about some developments in Turkey, Turkey is our neighbor and we want to keep talking in the spirit of neighborhood,” Merkel said.

Merkel’s Austrian counterpart, Christian Kern, reiterated his country’s position that “there is no question of EU accession for Turkey.” But he stressed that “Turkey is an important partner in dealing with the migration question, from a security policy point of view … but also from an economic point of view.”