EC: Turkey commitment to a Cyprus solution ‘crucial’
Turkey’s commitment and contribution to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem remains crucial, the European Commission’s Turkey said as part of the 2015 enlargement package.
According to the report, Turkey has still not fulfilled its obligation to ensure full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement and has not removed all obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on direct transport links with Cyprus. In addition, the report noted that “there was no progress on normalising bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus”.
It noted that the conclusions on Turkey that were adopted by the Council and endorsed by the European Council in December 2006 remain in force.
“They stipulate that negotiations will not be opened on eight chapters relating to Turkey’s restrictions regarding the Republic of Cyprus and no chapter will be provisionally closed until the Commission confirms that Turkey has fully implemented the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement”.
As regards the Cyprus issue, it noted that Turkey welcomed the resumption of the talks on a comprehensive settlement between the leaders of the two communities in May 2015, expressing its support for the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor’s efforts and for the newly elected leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community.
“Turkey had however previously, from October to April, issued statements and engaged into actions challenging the Republic of Cyprus’s right to exploit hydrocarbon resources in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone for the benefit of all Cypriots”.
The Commission said that the EU has repeatedly stressed the sovereign rights of EU member states which include entering into bilateral agreements, and exploring and exploiting their natural resources in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
It also notes that the EU also stressed the need to respect the sovereignty of member states over their territorial sea and airspace.
It added that the process of granting the Committee on Missing Persons full access to all relevant archives and military areas needs to be expedited.
The Commission noted that Turkey continued to veto the Republic of Cyprus joining several international organisations, such as the OECD.
The Commission also refers to the lack of communication between air traffic control centres in Turkey and Cyprus and notes that it “continues to seriously compromise air safety in the Nicosia flight information region. An operational solution needs to be found urgently to resolve this safety issue”.
In addition, it says that as long as restrictions remain in place on vessels and aircrafts registered in or related to Cyprus or whose last port of call was in Cyprus, Turkey will not be in a position to fully implement the acquis relating to this chapter.
As regards Turkey’s e-visa system introduced in 2013 it said that “the system continues to discriminate against de facto applicants from the Republic of Cyprus by referring to the country option Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus.”
It adds that good progress has been made towards the opening of chapter 17 - economic and monetary policy – (blocked by France) which would underpin the envisaged high level economic dialogue.
At the same time, the report negative trend in the respect for fundamental rights.
Significant shortcomings affected the judiciary as well as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and Turkey emphasises an overall
the rule of law and saw a severe deterioration of its security situation.
“The settlement process of the Kurdish issue came to a halt despite earlier positive developments on the issue. It is imperative that the peace talks resume,” the EC report underlined.
The Cyprus government said it is in general satisfied with the contents of the European Commission report for Turkey, adding that it will study in depth the contents of the report and will present its views in detail to the relevant EU institutions in view of the evaluation of Turkey’s accession process in December by the European Council.
Regarding the Commission’s intention to submit revised documents on chapters that Cyprus has blocked in 2009, the government pointed out that the reasons that it decided to block the chapters remain and according to what the Commission mentions in the report, the inclusion of revised documents does not prejudge the discussions in the Council nor the positions of member states.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Johannes Hahn told the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday that the refugee crisis has “reinforced the strategic case for close cooperation with the countries in south-east Europe”. Presenting the annual enlargement package on the candidate and potential candidate countries, he also stressed that the focus on the rule of law and basic freedoms - “fundamentals first” - in the accession process shall continue to be the backbone of the enlargement policy. In the debate, MEPs stressed the need for sustained enlargement process.
Richard Howitt (S&D, UK), on behalf of rapporteur on Turkey Kati Piri (S&D, NL), confirmed his group’s commitment to EU enlargement while regretting “any slowdown” of the process. “The refugee crisis must not distort the enlargement”, he said before quizzing the Commissioner on the new negotiation chapters to be opened with Turkey referring particularly to chapters 23 and 24 of the EU acquis.