Western Balkans to join the European family, Turkey to open its ports and airports

Fol­low­ing the Slove­ni­ans’ vote in favour of their government’s agree­ment to accept the ver­dict of an inter­na­tion­al pan­el in medi­at­ing the dis­pute on the Bay of Piran, Cypri­ot diplo­mats expressed the belief that Croa­t­ia will be able to com­plete its mem­ber­ship talks with Brus­sels in the com­ing year, putting the coun­try on track to become the EU’s 28th mem­ber in 2012.11Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos, Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, June 2010.

Accord­ing to our Min­istry of For­eign Affairs inter­locu­tors, Cyprus sup­ports the West­ern Balka­ns aspi­ra­tions to join the Euro­pean fam­i­ly, adding that the res­o­lu­tion of the mar­itime dis­pute between Croa­t­ia and Slove­nia sends a sig­nif­i­cant mes­sage to oth­er coun­tries in the region that wish to become EU mem­bers: name­ly, to resolve any bilat­er­al issues that might block their EU talks.22Ibid. An obvi­ous exam­ple is the name dis­pute between the For­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia (FYROM) and Greece: an agreed upon set­tle­ment will def­i­nite­ly speed up FYROM’s acces­sion prospects.

The same applies to the case of Turkey. As is well known, Cyprus – bank­ing on Turkey’s “Euro­peani­sa­tion” – has sup­port­ed its bid to become a full EU mem­ber, pro­vid­ed that Ankara com­plies with its EU oblig­a­tions and com­mit­ments and adopts in full the Euro­pean norms and val­ues. Turkey, how­ev­er, keeps refus­ing to open its ports and air­ports to Cyprus unless the so-called “iso­la­tion” of the Turk­ish Cypri­ots is lift­ed.33On the myth of the so-called „iso­la­tion“ of the Turk­ish Cypri­ots see: Era­to Kaza­k­ou Mark­oul­li, for­mer Cypri­ot Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, in: Costas Melakopides/Achilles Emilianides/Giorgos Ken­tas (eds.): The Cyprus Year­book of Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions 2007, Nicosia 2008). In this con­nec­tion, it is note­wor­thy that EU Enlarge­ment Com­mis­sion­er, Šte­fan Füle, dur­ing his June 2010 meet­ing in Ankara with Turk­ish chief EU nego­tia­tor, Ege­men Bağiş, acknowl­edged that Turkey holds the key for the open­ing of the “frozen chap­ters”, since it refus­es to imple­ment the Ankara Pro­to­col.44Šte­fan Füle, Eu Com­mis­sion­er for Enlarge­ment, State­ments, Ankara, 23/06/2010 (as report­ed by all Cypri­ot Media). Füle observed that it is not yet time for Turkey’s full EU acces­sion, adding how­ev­er that when that time comes, Turkey will be “a dif­fer­ent coun­try” from what it is today. On the same sub­ject, Cypri­ot Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Koullis Mau­roniko­las (Par­ty of Euro­pean Social­ists – PES) empha­sised that the issue of rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Ankara Pro­to­col does not con­sti­tute a Cyprus-Turkey dis­pute, but a clear issue of EU-Turkey rela­tions. He added that, man­i­fest­ly, the dis­pute between Cyprus and Turkey is the island’s mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion and the fair and func­tion­al set­tle­ment of the Cyprus prob­lem.55Koullis Mau­roniko­las, MEP: State­ment, Nicosia, 24/06/2010 (as report­ed by the Cyprus News Agency).

Fol­low­ing Ege­men Bağiş’ quip, that if he were a Cypri­ot he would work more for Ankara’s acces­sion than the Turk­ish nego­tia­tor, Cypri­ot gov­ern­ment spokesman Ste­fanos Ste­fanou replied that Turkey can­not pos­si­bly demand a carte blanche in its EU progress, while it insists on vio­lat­ing the UN res­o­lu­tions and inter­na­tion­al and Euro­pean law in Cyprus.66Ste­fanos Ste­fanou, Gov­ern­ment Spokesman: State­ments, Nicosia, 17/6/2010 (as report­ed by the Press and Infor­ma­tion Office of the Repub­lic of Cyprus). Ankara, Ste­fanou added, is not work­ing in prac­ti­cal terms towards a Cyprus set­tle­ment. If, he not­ed, Turkey ful­fils its oblig­a­tions to the EU and the Repub­lic of Cyprus, then it will dis­cov­er how sup­port­ive the Repub­lic can be regard­ing its acces­sion course.

Polit­i­cal ana­lysts and press colum­nists have long been con­cur­ring that Turkey is far from being hon­est con­cern­ing its inten­tions about the Cyprus prob­lem. This was reit­er­at­ed force­ful­ly after the April 2010 elec­tion of vet­er­an nation­al­ist politi­cian, Derviş Eroğlu, as the new leader of the Turk­ish Cypri­ot Com­mu­ni­ty. Eroğlu was essen­tial­ly elect­ed by the votes from ille­gal Turk­ish set­tlers who live in the occu­pied areas of Cyprus and whose num­ber has rapid­ly increased after the Annan Plan ref­er­en­da in April 2004.77Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos and Nico­le­ta Athanasi­adou, Nicosia, June 2010. It is cru­cial in this con­text to recall that, accord­ing to Coun­cil of Europe fig­ures, the (ille­gal) Turk­ish set­tlers arriv­ing in the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ry of north­ern Cypus have long exceed­ed the num­ber of the indige­nous Turk­ish Cypri­ots: “Accord­ing to reli­able esti­mates, their num­ber curent­ly amounts to 115,000. […The Turk­ish Cypri­ots’] num­ber decreased from 118,000 in 1974 to an esti­mat­ed 87,600 in 2001. In con­se­quence, the set­tlers out­num­ber the indige­nous Turk­ish Cypri­ot pop­u­la­tion in the north­ern part of the island.” See Coun­cil of Europe: Col­o­niza­tion by Turk­ish set­tlers of the occu­pied part of Cyprus, Doc. 9799, 2 May 2003, p. 2. These fig­ures for 2001 have wors­ened dra­mat­i­cal­ly since the April 2004 ref­er­en­dum on the noto­ri­ous “Annan plan”. After stat­ing as self-evi­dent that Turkey must con­sent to a fair and viable solu­tion of the Cyprus prob­lem if it wish­es to become a full EU mem­ber state, they added a tru­ism: that it would be scan­dalous if Turkey joined the EU while occu­py­ing – with around 40,000 troops – 37 per­cent of anoth­er EU mem­ber state. Accord­ing to our inter­locu­tors, it is “quite odd” to hear from the lips of Pres­i­dent Gul, Prime Min­is­ter Erdoğan, and Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Davoutoğlu that they want a res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict by the end of 2010, while Turk­ish Cypri­ot leader Eroğlu declares that the only solu­tion of the Cyprus prob­lem is the cre­ation of either two dif­fer­ent states or a con­fed­er­a­tion with two dif­fer­ent economies. Nee­dles to say, both alter­na­tives con­tra­dict the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions and the cur­rent UN-sup­port­ed nego­ti­at­ing framework.

Mean­while, accord­ing to ANTENA TV’s Brus­sels cor­re­spon­dent, the Cyprus gov­ern­ment may con­sent to the open­ing of the food safe­ty chap­ter for Turkey, either on 30 June 2010, at the end of the Span­ish EU Pres­i­den­cy, or in July 2010, dur­ing the Bel­gian EU Pres­i­den­cy.8823/05/2010 (as report­ed by ANTENA TV main evening news). Were Nicosia to take this stance, it would wish to sig­nal anew its own good will and its unceas­ing aspi­ra­tion to facil­i­tate the ongo­ing, albeit quite bumpy, Cyprus talks.

Ice­land seems to Cypri­ot diplo­mats to poten­tial­ly com­pete with Croa­t­ia for the sta­tus of the EU’s 28th mem­ber state.99Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos, Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, ear­ly June 2010. The Nordic coun­try is well in line with Euro­pean stan­dards: it respects the rule of law and human rights and it has already adopt­ed a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of EU leg­is­la­tion through its mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Eco­nom­ic Area. Nev­er­the­less, issues like fish­ing and whal­ing rights are expect­ed to be a bit chal­leng­ing in the country’s EU acces­sion trajectory.

The joint dec­la­ra­tion at the Prague East­ern Part­ner­ship Sum­mit between the EU mem­ber states and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Republics of Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, Belarus, Geor­gia, Moldo­va and Ukraine is expect­ed by Cypri­ot polit­i­cal observers to fos­ter clos­er polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic ties between the par­ties involved.1010Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos and Nico­le­ta Athanasi­adou, Nicosia, June 2010. Accord­ing to them, this attempt aims at incor­po­rat­ing the EU’s For­eign Pol­i­cy towards East­ern Europe and the South Cau­ca­sus by devel­op­ing a spe­cif­ic East­ern dimen­sion of the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy. The East­ern Part­ner­ship offers deep­er bilat­er­al rela­tions and launch­es a new mul­ti­lat­er­al frame­work for coop­er­a­tion, accord­ing to each partner’s needs and ambi­tions, and is try­ing to cre­ate con­di­tions for a more sta­ble devel­op­ment, far from inter­nal con­flicts and dis­putes. This effort aims at boost­ing EU-inspired reforms, which would ulti­mate­ly lead to more eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion and a visa-free regime. Accord­ing to Cypri­ot polit­i­cal ana­lysts, this effort will be empow­ered with the direct involve­ment of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, giv­en its strong influ­ence in most of these counties.

Con­cern­ing the Union for the Mediter­ranean, Cypri­ot polit­i­cal ana­lysts acknowl­edge that, until now, it has not pro­duced any sub­stan­tial results.1111Ibid. The laud­able ambi­tion of the Union for the Mediter­ranean is to deal with ener­gy, secu­ri­ty, counter-ter­ror­ism, immi­gra­tion and trade issues. But all projects require approval by con­sen­sus among its 48 mem­bers, around half of which are EU mem­ber states. In addi­tion, the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict has blocked cru­cial pol­i­cy issues in the entire region. Nev­er­the­less, accord­ing to our inter­locu­tors, the over­all idea – i.e., EU mem­ber states com­ing togeth­er with North­ern African and Mid­dle East­ern states to dis­cuss com­mon prob­lems – is praise­wor­thy and, there­fore, it should be cultivated.

Since both ini­tia­tives – the Union for the Mediter­ranean and the East­ern Part­ner­ship – aim at enhanc­ing the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy by address­ing inter­nal prob­lems and by pro­mot­ing coop­er­a­tion between third coun­tries and the EU, they are per­ceived quite favourably from the Cypri­ot polit­i­cal and aca­d­e­m­ic stand­point, as far as we were able to detect.

    Footnotes

  • 1Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos, Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, June 2010.
  • 2Ibid.
  • 3On the myth of the so-called „iso­la­tion“ of the Turk­ish Cypri­ots see: Era­to Kaza­k­ou Mark­oul­li, for­mer Cypri­ot Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, in: Costas Melakopides/Achilles Emilianides/Giorgos Ken­tas (eds.): The Cyprus Year­book of Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions 2007, Nicosia 2008).
  • 4Šte­fan Füle, Eu Com­mis­sion­er for Enlarge­ment, State­ments, Ankara, 23/06/2010 (as report­ed by all Cypri­ot Media).
  • 5Koullis Mau­roniko­las, MEP: State­ment, Nicosia, 24/06/2010 (as report­ed by the Cyprus News Agency).
  • 6Ste­fanos Ste­fanou, Gov­ern­ment Spokesman: State­ments, Nicosia, 17/6/2010 (as report­ed by the Press and Infor­ma­tion Office of the Repub­lic of Cyprus).
  • 7Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos and Nico­le­ta Athanasi­adou, Nicosia, June 2010. It is cru­cial in this con­text to recall that, accord­ing to Coun­cil of Europe fig­ures, the (ille­gal) Turk­ish set­tlers arriv­ing in the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ry of north­ern Cypus have long exceed­ed the num­ber of the indige­nous Turk­ish Cypri­ots: “Accord­ing to reli­able esti­mates, their num­ber curent­ly amounts to 115,000. […The Turk­ish Cypri­ots’] num­ber decreased from 118,000 in 1974 to an esti­mat­ed 87,600 in 2001. In con­se­quence, the set­tlers out­num­ber the indige­nous Turk­ish Cypri­ot pop­u­la­tion in the north­ern part of the island.” See Coun­cil of Europe: Col­o­niza­tion by Turk­ish set­tlers of the occu­pied part of Cyprus, Doc. 9799, 2 May 2003, p. 2. These fig­ures for 2001 have wors­ened dra­mat­i­cal­ly since the April 2004 ref­er­en­dum on the noto­ri­ous “Annan plan”.
  • 823/05/2010 (as report­ed by ANTENA TV main evening news).
  • 9Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos, Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, ear­ly June 2010.
  • 10Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos and Nico­le­ta Athanasi­adou, Nicosia, June 2010.
  • 11Ibid.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.