The Latest: Romanian soccer hero scores again for EU's Tusk

The Latest: Romanian soccer hero scores again for EU's Tusk

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SIBIU, Romania (AP) — The Latest on the European Union summit in Romania (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

Not everybody comes with gloves to a European Union summit, but European Council President Donald Tusk could not resist. At least, they weren't boxing gloves.

While in Romania, where EU leaders held a summit Thursday, Tusk met with former Steaua Bucharest soccer goalie Helmuth Duckadam, who gave the EU official a pair of goalkeeper gloves.

Duckadam is a national hero in Romania because he stopped four penalty kicks in the shootout of the 1986 European Cup final against Barcelona. As a devoted soccer fan for decades, Tusk knew of him.

Tusk lauded Duckadam's 1986 performance in January when he asked the Romanian government to defend democratic rights "with the same determination as Helmuth Duckadam when he defended penalty shots."

The summit, where leaders issued a joint declaration of unity, gave Tusk another chance to use Duckadam as an example.

He said: "I received these gloves from Helmuth Duckadam and a piece of advice on how to defend our European interests more effectively."


5:45 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk says the European Union "stands united" behind Cyprus as tensions between the Mediterranean island nation and Turkey escalate over offshore gas drilling.

Speaking Thursday after an informal EU summit in Romania, Tusk said the EU "expects Turkey to respect the sovereign rights" of its member nation and the bloc will closely monitor the situation.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told other EU leaders that Turkey is launching a bid to drill for gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

Cypriot authorities say the Turkish drillship Fatih is anchored about 68 kilometers (42 miles) off the southwestern Cypriot resort town of Paphos, escorted by support ships and a Turkish navy frigate, but hasn't started drilling yet.

Anastasiades described Ankara's actions as tantamount to a new invasion. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to an attempted coup by supporters of uniting the island with Greece.


5:20 p.m.

The European Union will be holding an extra summit two days after the European Parliament elections end on May 26 to assess who should get three top jobs that will be vacated in the fall.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz confirmed the May 28 date on Thursday. The summit is intended to get everyone in place by the time European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker leaves his post at the end of October.

Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, also departs at the end of October. Donald Tusk's will step down as European Council president a month later.

Tusk said this month's summit should streamline the procedures for picking candidates and all of the posts should be filled during a June summit in Brussels


5:40 p.m.

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.


4:15 p.m.

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.


1:35 p.m.

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."


12:50 p.m.

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?"


12:30 p.m.

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.


9 a.m.

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.

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