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Putin, Trump and Erdogan loom over EU summit (Financial Times)

on Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:41 am
Europe’s leaders face diplomatic minefield over a trio who are not even there

Europe’s leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday for a summit discussion that will be acutely influenced by three men who will not be there: Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, the US president-elect.

This will not be a hot, crisis summit of the kind to which the EU has become accustomed over recent years. But the one-day meeting — discussing migration, external policy and defence — will remain a precarious diplomatic affair.

Unsettled by migration, populists at home and a political revolution in Washington, Europe’s leaders are increasingly divided over how to influence their neighbourhood, whether through trade, membership talks or sanctions. Brought together, the topics on Thursday amount to “treading on a minefield”, according to one diplomat preparing the summit.

With Turkey and Mr Erdogan, the question is how the bloc handles an increasingly autocratic and pugnacious leader on its doorstep. While Turkey is diverging from democratic norms and the established framework for EU relations, its position as a gateway for mass migration into Europe has made it ever more important for the continent’s collective interests.

Europe is torn between a German-led majority that wants to keep channels open with Ankara — and even develop more incentives for Mr Erdogan to co-operate — and an Austrian-led minority that thinks it is time to send a tougher message and admit that Turkey’s EU membership bid is in effect stillborn.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, is determined to ensure that the focus remains on the EU-Turkey migration deal and how to keep it alive — be that through additional summits with Mr Erdogan or the prospect of deeper trade ties. “The migration deal is working because of him, we cannot forget that,” said one senior EU diplomat, noting the fall in migrant numbers.

But Mr Tusk’s fear will be that the debate veers off course, with Austria digging in over Turkey’s accession and repeating objections that left EU ministers on Wednesday unable formally to agree a common enlargement policy for the first time...................

Access complete text of the editorial:  Financial Times In English
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