Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot administration as the sole representative of the eastern Mediterranean island, which is divided between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
In December 2006, the Council of the European Union suspended accession negotiations with Turkey that had started in 2005 until Turkey could fulfill its commitments under the additional protocol to the EU-Turkey association agreement that extended the EU-Turkey
customs union to the 10 member states, including Cyprus (the Greek Cypriot administration), that joined the EU in May 2004. Turkey refused to open its ports and air space to Greek Cypriot traffic under an additional protocol of the Ankara Agreement of 1963 in protest of the EU's refusal to lift an economic embargo on the Turkish Cypriots.
The EU has opened with Turkey only 13 of the 35 chapters that every state must negotiate in order to join the bloc. Just one chapter has successfully been closed.
Despite a breakthrough on the Cyprus stalemate when the Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly approved in an April 2004 referendum a UN plan to reunite the island -- which was rejected by the Greek Cypriots in a simultaneous vote -- the EU accepted the Greek Cypriots as a full member and as the sole representative of the island.
The EU membership of the Greek Cypriot administration stands as one of the important factors complicating Turkey's relations with the union, as it has been using its veto power to bloc progress in Turkey's accession talks. In addition, France, Austria and Germany also oppose the Muslim-majority country's EU bid.
There have, however, been positive developments taking place recently through diplomatic efforts between Ankara and Brussels to avert a political crisis that may erupt when the Greek Cypriots assume the EU presidency on July 1. As a result, Ankara and Brussels have agreed to “kick off a political dialogue,” also described as a “positive agenda.” Under this policy, Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and the EU commissioner responsible for enlargement and European neighborhood policy, Stefan Füle, will meet in Ankara on Thursday to open political dialogue on one of the stalled topics related to the accession negotiations. This is Chapter 23, on the Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, one of the most important EU criteria to be met for membership.
EU policies in the area of the judiciary and fundamental rights aim to maintain and further develop the union as an area of freedom, security and justice, as its member states must ensure respect for fundamental rights and those of EU citizens as guaranteed by the acquis (EU body of law) and by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
Talks on Chapter 23 will continue between Turkey and the EU after the Greek Cypriot government assumes the EU presidency on July 1.
“Once the Greek Cypriot political obstacle is removed, this chapter will automatically be opened as the groundwork will have already been laid down during technical talks scheduled to begin on Thursday,” said Western diplomatic sources in Ankara who spoke with this columnist but wished to remain anonymous.
It is too early to say that Turkish-EU relations will be back on track. There is, however, increased awareness within the EU that Turkey being inside the bloc is in the strategic interest of Europe for reasons such as stability in the Balkans and the Middle East.
“Turkey outside the EU is more of a pain. Turkey makes us look anti-Islamic,” said the same diplomatic sources.
If Turkish-EU relations turn positive from stable as a result of this newly invented formula called a “positive agenda,” it will not only avert a political crisis from erupting between Turkey and the bloc but will also help motivate Turkey to push for democratic reforms that have long been stalled.