German FM Guido westerwelle told Turkey on Tuesday not to let its EU membership bid stall due to the Cyprus problem, saying the accession negotiations should not be suspended during the upcoming Greek Cypriot Presidency of the 27-nation bloc. “We should be rational, not emotional. We should not miss our goal,” Westerwelle told a conference in İstanbul.
His remarks come as hopes increase for new momentum in Turkey's EU membership bid in the wake of presidential elections in France. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, a staunch opponent of Turkey's EU membership, lost the race for re-election to his Socialist rival, François Hollande, who is known to have a more favorable view of Turkey's EU membership. But despite new hopes for progress, the Greek Cypriots' upcoming presidency, beginning on July 1, presents a fresh obstacle. Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot administration and has repeatedly said that it will have no dialogue with the EU presidency during the Greek Cypriot term.
Speaking late on Monday at a joint news conference with Westerwelle, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu reiterated the Turkish position, saying the talks with the EU presidency will be suspended throughout the second half of 2012.
Ankara also refuses to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus, a policy that the EU responded to by suspending accession talks on eight of the 35 negotiating chapters. Westerwelle said in İstanbul that Turkey should act “bravely” and implement reforms, including the opening of Turkish ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus.
Turkey says it will comply unless the EU keeps its promises to ease the international isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, who run their own state in the north of the island. The EU promised measures for direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots after they voted in 2004 for a UN plan to reunite the island. The Greek Cypriots rejected the plan but were admitted into the EU a few days after the vote.
New hopes for EU bid in post-Sarkozy era
The Cyprus rift mars newfound optimism that Turkey’s membership process, stalled for two years, could receive a fresh boost in the wake of elections in France.
Speaking on Monday, Westerwelle said Germany expected a revival of the process. “We believe a revival is possible because there are a number of practical areas in which we can achieve progress,” Westerwelle was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency at a joint news conference Davutoğlu in Ankara. “What is important is to seize the opportunity that emerged after the latest elections in Europe and restart Turkey-EU ties.”
Davutoğlu agreed, saying, “What we all hope for is a positive acceleration of Turkey-EU relations following Mr. [François] Hollande’s election in France.”
Sarkozy handed over his post to Hollande on Tuesday. Hollande’s election has raised hopes in Turkey for a breakthrough since France may now lift a block on accession talks on five negotiating chapters imposed by Sarkozy.
France under Sarkozy, who claims Turkey does not culturally belong to Europe, has said it would block talks on five negotiating chapters that it says are directly related to accession. Diplomats have recently told Today’s Zaman that France may lift its veto on these five chapters following parliamentary elections later in May.
Turkey and the EU opened accession talks in 2005, but progress has been very slow since then due to the unresolved Cyprus dispute and opposition to Turkish membership from some member states, including France.
Out of 35 chapters, which have to be successfully negotiated by any candidate country as a condition for membership, only 13 have been opened, 17 are blocked, four have not been opened yet, and only one is provisionally closed -- the science and research chapter.
Diplomats say talks may begin soon on one of the five chapters blocked by France, namely “Economic and Monetary Policy,” by July 1, when the EU term presidency, currently held by Denmark, is taken over by Greek Cyprus.
Denmark is reportedly eager to open talks with Turkey on a new chapter, thus getting the credit for breaking the two-year stalemate in the Turkish accession bid. The last time Turkey and the EU opened talks on a negotiating chapter was in June 2010, when the two sides began talks on “food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy,” during Spain’s presidency.
Westerwelle said Germany was willing to contribute to efforts to revive the stalled accession process. “We want new chapters to be opened and [Turkish-EU] relations to be revived,” he said.
He said Turkey’s accomplishments in the economic and political fields amount to a “breathtaking” success story, boosting Ankara’s standing as a foreign policy actor. “We want to be in cooperation with Turkey not only in economic but also in political and strategic areas,” he said.
Davutoğlu said the opening of talks on new chapters would be a “very important sign,” indicating that the new French administration values Turkish-EU ties.
Under Sarkozy, France acted in close cooperation with Germany in many foreign policy issues, even though conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel has had a softer stance towards Turkish membership in the EU.
Hollande was due to travel to Berlin hours after he was sworn in as French president for talks with Merkel.
The two ministers also responded to questions on growing racism in Europe. “I assure you that there is no room for the extreme right, violence and intolerant views. We will fight with determinism against the extreme right and xenophobia,” he said.