ANKARA, Turkey – The Latest on relations between Turkey and the European Union (all times local):
The European Commission says top EU officials will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 26 to discuss their ties, as tensions simmer between the bloc and its membership candidate country.
Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said Wednesday that the talks will focus on "subjects of mutual interest and recent developments in Turkey. That includes obviously the rule of law and fundamental rights."
The EU is concerned about a media and justice crackdown in Turkey that followed the failed coup in 2015, but is wary of angering a country it depends on to limit the flow of migrants into Europe.
The talks in Varna, Bulgaria, will involve Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
A senior official in Turkey says the country has fulfilled all 72 requirements set by the European Union to secure visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the bloc.
Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Wednesday that Turkey had submitted all related documents to EU officials ahead of an EU-Turkey summit in March.
Kalin said he hoped the right to visa free travel would be implemented in 2018, adding that it would give "a new momentum to Turkish-EU relations."
Visa liberation was a key part of a 2016 EU-Turkey deal aimed at stemming the flow of migrants to Europe, but Turkey had failed to meet the 72 criteria, including amending antiterror laws.
Kalin said all outstanding criteria had been met, without providing details.