No new chap­ters for Turkey

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The Euro­pean Union should not shift the bur­den of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mi­gra­tion cri­sis on the shoul­ders of Cyprus, Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades told Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, who was on a whis­tle-stop tour to the re­gion prior to the EU–Turkey Sum­mit on the mi­gra­tion cri­sis on Thurs­day and Fri­day,

“The Re­pub­lic of Cyprus will not con­sent to the open­ing of any (of the five) chap­ters, if Turkey does not ful­fil its obli­ga­tions as per the Ne­go­ti­at­ing Frame­work and the Ankara Pro­to­col,” Pres­i­dent Anas­tasi­ades said af­ter meet­ing Tusk in Nicosia.

“It is un­war­ranted, counter-pro­duc­tive, not to men­tion un­ac­cept­able, not by Pres­i­dent Tusk, to shift the bur­den of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mi­gra­tion cri­sis on my shoul­ders or on the shoul­ders of the Re­pub­lic of Cyprus,” he said.

This was a clear ref­er­ence to Tusk try­ing to re­assert his po­si­tion in EU affairs, hav­ing been side­lined last week by An­gela Merkel, who wanted to push her own agenda to ap­pease Turk­ish con­cerns in the EU ac­ces­sion-for-mi­grant-aid deal.

Re­spond­ing, Tusk said that he was not in Nicosia to ex­ert pres­sure on Cyprus. “I am here to lis­ten to your po­si­tions ahead of the EU Coun­cil this week,” he noted.

He stressed that when it comes to ac­ces­sion, “I want to make it clear that the rules have not changed. The same strict con­di­tion­al­ity ap­plies and mov­ing for­ward will still re­quire the agree­ment by all 28.”

“No third coun­try can ever be more im­por­tant to me than any of our mem­ber states,” Tusk de­clared. Fur­ther­more he ex­pressed his full sup­port to the on­go­ing ef­forts for a set­tle­ment in Cyprus.

In his state­ments, Anas­tasi­ades ex­pressed his sat­is­fac­tion for the ob­jec­tive stance he adopted both dur­ing the re­cent Euro­pean Coun­cils and dur­ing Tues­day’s meet­ing. “A stance that cor­re­sponds with the Pres­i­dent’s in­sti­tu­tional ca­pac­ity as the guardian of the EU’s prin­ci­ples and val­ues,” he added.

He said that dur­ing the meet­ing, they ex­changed ideas and con­cerns as re­gards the up­com­ing Euro­pean Coun­cil.

Anas­tasi­ades noted that Cyprus, “as Turkey’s EU clos­est neigh­bour, has al­ways been a strong sup­porter of Turkey’s full ac­ces­sion to the EU, on the con­di­tion of course that Turkey ful­fils its obli­ga­tions.”

“We fully un­der­stand the prob­lems EU mem­ber states face as a re­sult of the un­prece­dented flow of mi­grants, and in par­tic­u­lar the se­ri­ous prob­lems faced by Greece fol­low­ing the clo­sure of routes to Europe,” he said.

“In this re­gard - and de­spite the fact that the mi­gra­tion cri­sis is not con­nected to the dis­cus­sion on the re-en­er­gi­sa­tion of Turkey’s ac­ces­sion process - Cyprus has main­tained a very con­struc­tive stance”.

He re­called that Cyprus con­sented to the open­ing of Chap­ter 17, ac­cepted Turkey’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in in­for­mal sum­mits on mi­gra­tion and con­sented to the Ac­tion Plan.

Turkey’s main de­mand at present is to con­clude the chap­ter on En­ergy, while MEPs want Ankara to show progress on hu­man rights, es­pe­cially af­ter the re­cent clo­sure of lib­eral me­dia groups and the im­pris­on­ment of jour­nal­ists.

“At this crit­i­cal phase of the ne­go­ti­a­tions for a so­lu­tion of the Cyprus prob­lem such a pro­posal leads me – with­out my in­ten­tion – to come to a con­fronta­tion with Turkey. In fact, any con­fronta­tion with the Turk­ish Govern­ment, par­tic­u­larly at this crit­i­cal phase, is the last thing we want.”

“The Re­pub­lic of Cyprus does not in­tend to con­sent to the open­ing of any chap­ters if Turkey does not ful­fil its obli­ga­tions,” he stressed.

On his part, Tusk said that “at our EU sum­mit last week, we dis­cussed a fur­ther strength­en­ing of our co­op­er­a­tion with Turkey,” not­ing that “this is an im­por­tant pil­lar of our com­mon and com­pre­hen­sive Euro­pean strat­egy. But it is never wise to build a plan on one pil­lar only. We should not, and we will not. The other pil­lars of our com­mon Euro­pean strat­egy con­sist of get­ting back to Schen­gen, end­ing the wavethrough-pol­icy, in­clud­ing along the Western Balkans route. And also mas­sively step­ping up hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to the most af­fected coun­tries, not least Greece,” he noted.

“Last week, I was man­dated to pre­pare an agree­ment be­tween Turkey and the EU on fur­ther strength­en­ing our co­op­er­a­tion in the mi­gra­tion cri­sis. I am now work­ing on the de­tails. This is why I am here to­day in Nicosia. And this is why I will con­tinue to Ankara this evening,” Tusk went on.

He said that the Turk­ish pro­posal worked out to­gether with Ger­many and the Nether­lands still needs to be re-bal­anced so as to be ac­cepted by all 28 mem­ber states and the EU in­sti­tu­tions. The ob­jec­tive is to con­clude the ne­go­ti­a­tions on Thurs­day and Fri­day.

“One of the is­sues to be sorted out is the key ques­tion of le­gal­ity. We need to en­sure that any new large-scale re­turn scheme be­tween Greece and Turkey fully com­plies with EU law and our in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments. This means that we must en­sure that all get an in­di­vid­ual as­sess­ment in Greece be­fore a de­ci­sion to re­turn them to Turkey. And it also means that we must en­sure that those in need of in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion re­ceive ap­pro­pri­ate pro­tec­tion in Turkey. An­other is­sue to be ad­dressed is that of pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive routes from Turkey to other EU coun­tries such as Bul­garia. This also has to be fac­tored in for the agree­ment to be ef­fec­tive,” he noted.

“But our co­op­er­a­tion with Turkey goes much be­yond mi­gra­tion. The cur­rent dy­nam­ics of­fers an op­por­tu­nity to reen­er­gise the re­la­tions be­tween the Euro­pean Union and Turkey”, he said.

At the same time, he stressed that “the Euro­pean Union is a Union of 28 Mem­ber States. Cyprus is as im­por­tant as Ger­many, France, the Nether­lands or any other mem­ber state. No third coun­try can ever be more im­por­tant to me than any of our mem­ber states. We should use this op­por­tu­nity, and make sure that all ben­e­fit from this new dy­nam­ics, also Cyprus.”

Tusk also said that he and Anas­tasi­ades dis­cussed the on­go­ing ef­forts in the Cyprus set­tle­ment ne­go­ti­a­tions. “A suc­cess­ful out­come, with sup­port from both sides of the is­land, would give a fresh start not only to Cyprus, but to the whole of Europe and the wider re­gion,” he noted.

Re­fer­ring to the eco­nomic re­cov­ery, he noted that “only three years ago, you were stand­ing on the brink of a fi­nan­cial abyss. To­day, you are stand­ing on your own feet again, with­out hav­ing used all the re­sources made avail­able to you by your eu­ro­zone part­ners and the IMF. This suc­cess is a re­sult of your own ef­forts. It is a good sign for Cyprus, the euro zone and Europe.”

Mean­while, For­eign Min­is­ter Ioan­nis Ka­soulides re­it­er­ated dur­ing the EU Gen­eral Affairs Coun­cil in Brus­sels the Cyprus po­si­tion that the open­ing of ne­go­ti­at­ing chap­ters can harm the Cyprus set­tle­ment talks and that the two pro­ce­dures should be syn­chro­nised.

“Cyprus”, he said, “re­spects those part­ners who be­lieve that Turkey plays an im­por­tant role in the mi­gra­tion is­sue and there­fore ac­cepted the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween EU and Turkey on the mat­ter.” He stated, how­ever, that “open­ing ac­ces­sion chap­ters in the cur­rent phase of the Cyprus prob­lem would only harm the on­go­ing talks.”

“Turkey’s de­mand to open ac­ces­sion chap­ters does not con­trib­ute pos­i­tively to the Cyprus set­tle­ment ef­forts,” he said. Not­ing then that nei­ther the open­ing of chap­ters nor deny­ing to do so, helps in this case, the For­eign Min­is­ter pointed out that since last De­cem­ber, he has raised “the no­tion of the syn­chro­ni­sa­tion be­tween the two pro­ce­dures, pro­vided that with a Cyprus set­tle­ment, we will over­come any prob­lems in the Turk­ish ac­ces­sion process.”

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