EU concerns increase as Turkey gets tougher on Cyprus

EU concerns increase as Turkey gets tougher on Cyprus

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle

July 20, 2011, Wednesday/ 17:19:00/ SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI

As first Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that relations would freeze with the EU during the Greek Cypriot presidency in the latter part of 2012 unless there was a solution to the decades-old Cyprus issue, Brussels concerns have recently increased that the already embattled accession talks would altogether ground to a halt after Turkey’s very blunt position on the divided island.

European Union officials and MEPs have come out to stress that the energy should now be invested in talks between Derviş Eroğlu, the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) and Dimitris Christofias, the leader of the Greek Cypriots. Asked about Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle’s reaction to Erdoğan’s statement that Turkey would definitely not talk to the Greek Cypriot EU presidency, Füle’s cabinet told Today’s Zaman that the commissioner was in Turkey last week and their position remained the same. Füle last week said it was not the moment to speculate on any other outcome than a comprehensive settlement. Referring to the trilateral summit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with Eroğlu and Christofias in Geneva on July 7, Füle argued that all sides should work hard to have a positive result from the process.

Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey, who has closely followed the Cypriot issue and reflected her often criticized pro-Greek Cypriot position by Turkish officials, said the energy wasted in this debate should be spent in the talks. Talking to Today’s Zaman, Oomen-Ruijten said she did not want to react to a hypothetical situation that might present itself within a year. However, stressing that Turkey should realize that it had to play by the rules if it wanted to join the Club, Oomen-Ruijten said: “The energy now wasted by this discussion could and should have been used more effectively in the negotiation process and in concrete steps towards reunification of the island Cyprus.”

Following Erdoğan’s visit to KKTC closely, Brussels strongly hopes that Ban Ki-Moon’s efforts will bear fruit this time. Fourteen chapters out of 35 are frozen due to problems related to Cyprus. France is also blocking five chapters, claiming they are directly related to full membership. Eighteen chapters are suspended leaving only three chapters technically ready to be opened. For the first time since accession talks started on Oct. 3, 2005, no chapter has been opened in the last year.

Greek Cypriots became a full member representing the whole island on May 1, 2004, a week after they overwhelmingly said “no” to the Annan Plan supported by the EU, the UN and the US. While Turks said “yes” to the plan, they were left outside the Club.

While diplomatic activities on Cyprus have increased, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday appointed Jorge César das Neves as his new personal Representative to the Good Offices Mission of the United Nations in Cyprus. César das Neves will succeed Leopold Maurer who had been the envoy since 2009. Cesar das Neves will work on a full time basis to provide advice to the UN Good Offices Mission on EU-related matters. Neves, like Barroso, is from Portugal.

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