Rasmussen, the former prime minister of Denmark, said that such measures were required to overcome the chief obstacle to more effective EU-NATO cooperation: the division of Cyprus.
Rasmussen said that because of mutual vetoes by Greek Cyprus in the EU and Turkey in NATO, cooperation between the two organizations was hamstrung. Rasmussen’s remarks published on www.europeanvoice.com on Thursday came ahead of a the Nato chief’s planned visit to Turkey next Thursday. “We are in the absurd situation. … the only issue we are allowed to discuss in formal joint EU-NATO meetings is Bosnia,” Rasmussen said.
Greek Cyprus, representing the entire island as a full member of the EU since 2004, blocks Turkish participation in European defense institutions such as the EDA, the body set up to nurture EU defense policy. Turkey responds by obstructing the Greek Cypriot government’s use of NATO facilities and NATO cooperation with Greek Cyprus on defense and security issues more generally.
Ankara wants Brussels to persuade Greek Cyprus to drop its veto over Ankara’s bid to become an associate member of the EDA. It also wants to be consulted further regarding European security policy, arguing that it is already a major participant in EU-led military operations and that it supports the European Security and Defense Policy.
Turkey argues that an agreement reached at the EU Copenhagen Summit in December 2002 to allow the EU to have political and military arrangements in place to access NATO assets and operational planning capabilities, the so-called Berlin-Plus arrangements, provides the framework for such cooperation between the two bodies.
Greek Cyprus, meanwhile, exerts efforts for the expansion of the existing agreement to new members of the bloc that joined in May 2004. Ankara maintains that through these efforts, Greek Cyprus aims at gaining further support from the international community for its illegitimate recognition as the official representative of the entire island.
“If we are to put substance into that, then we need some progress on the ground, and this is the reason why I have accompanied the strategic concept with more pragmatic proposals as to how we could overcome the obstacles,” he said. This is not the first time that Rasmussen, who was elected to his current post in April 2009, has raised the issue concerning EU-Turkey defense cooperation. In July, he criticized the EU for its “unfair treatment” of Turkey, while urging the union to give more say to Ankara on military matters.