Greek Cyprus takes over six-month term presidency of EU

July 01, 2012, Sunday/ 19:19:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The Greek Cypriot administration took over the reins of the EU from Denmark on July 1, a presidency that EU candidate Turkey does not recognize.

Turkey has said it will suspend dialogue with the EU presidency during the Greek Cypriot term for the next six months. Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias will submit a program of the country’s priorities for the EU presidency to the General Assembly of the European Parliament on July 4.

The Greek Cypriot administration, which applied for EU funds due to the economic crisis, will be under the supervision of the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during its presidency.

It will be the first time in the EU’s history that a state will conduct the presidency role under the supervision of member states. Greek Cyprus, the eurozone’s third smallest economy, will also assume the presidency of the Council of Europe’s security and defense fields until the end of the year. The Turkish dispute over the Greek Cypriot presidency stems from the decades-long Cyprus issue between the two countries. UN-backed talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders aimed at reuniting the island have so far failed to yield progress on any of the substantial issues under dispute, such as property rights in a reunited Cypriot state.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said when Greek Cyprus assumes the presidency, Turkey would continue to collaborate with the EU but would not attend any event that Greek Cyprus presides over.

But despite the snub, Greek Cypriot Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis left the door open for dialogue, saying the Greek Cypriot presidency would reserve a chair for Turkey if it decides to move forward with its accession negotiations with the EU in the next six months.

The minister warned last Friday that Turkey’s aspirations to put in place a visa-free travel regime with the EU would face obstacles because of Ankara’s refusal to normalize its relations with her country. “Turkey is creating more problems for itself by not recognizing [Greek] Cyprus. This is something Turkey should deal with urgently. Turkey will create more troubles for itself if it continues with its arrogant and insulting policies,” Kozakou-Marcoullis told Today’s Zaman in an interview. Kozakou-Marcoullis said Turkey’s refusal to have normal ties with her government is an obstacle to the implementation of the readmission deal. “Many things are impossible. How can you implement the readmission agreement if you refuse to cooperate with the Cypriot authorities?” she asked.

The Greek Cypriot minister said Turkey’s boycott decision is “regrettable” and “disappointing,” pointing out it is not only her government but the entire EU that has told Turkey it should respect the EU presidency as the main institution of the 27-nation bloc.

“No matter how right Turkey’s reason is, and whether you like it or not, Greek Cyprus is a member of the EU, and Turkey is the only country who does not recognize Greek Cyprus. While pursuing foreign policies, Turkey should consider these facts, and not the economy or demographic structure of Greek Cyprus,” said Kozakou-Marcoullis, adding: “For us, we are ready if Turkey is ready. There are three chapters right now on which we can open talks. If Turkey decides to [start the talks], we are ready,” she said.

EU candidate Turkey served notice last year that it would break off relations with the EU presidency during Greek Cyprus’ six-month term unless there was progress in reunification talks between Turkish Cypriots living in the north and Greek Cypriots.

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