Con­cerns over EU-Turk­ish rift

Fears in Athens over im­pact on mi­gra­tion deal by Euro MPs’ vote to freeze ac­ces­sion talks for Ankara

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

There were con­cerns in Athens over the pos­si­ble reper­cus­sions of grow­ing ten­sions be­tween the Euro­pean Union and Turkey after EU law­mak­ers yes­ter­day called for a tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion of ac­ces­sion talks with Ankara. The big­gest fear is that the rift could lead to the col­lapse of a deal be­tween Brus­sels and Ankara to crack down on hu­man smug­gling in the Aegean, po­ten­tially prompt­ing a new in­flux of mi­grants into the EU via Greece.

Al­though the mo­tion is non­bind­ing, and would re­quire the ap­proval of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and na- tional gov­ern­ments, it gave a sense of the level of con­cern in Brus­sels over what the mo­tion de­scribed as Ankara’s “dis­pro­por­tion­ate” re­ac­tion to a failed Turk­ish coup in July.

So far only Aus­tria and Lux­em­bourg have of­fi­cially asked for the freez­ing of ac­ces­sion talks.

Athens, which has been un­set­tled by a se­ries of ag­gres­sive com­ments by Turk­ish of­fi­cials in re­cent weeks, re­ceived an un­ex­pected boost for its ar­gu­ments yes­ter­day when Man­fred We­ber, the leader of the Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Party, crit­i­cized Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan for ques­tion­ing the Treaty of Lau­sanne, which es­tab­lished the modern bor­ders be­tween Greece and Turkey, and ap­pealed to Er­do­gan “not to use this lan­guage any­more.”

There was also con­cern yes­ter­day over an in­flam­ma­tory sug­ges­tion put forth last Sunday by a se­nior ad­viser to Er­do­gan for the an­nex­a­tion of the north­ern part of Cyprus. His re­marks came just two days be­fore the break­down of United Na­tions-backed re­uni­fi­ca­tion talks be­tween Greek and Turk­ish Cypri­ots in the Swiss re­sort of Mont Pelerin. Speak­ing to A Haber news chan­nel, Yigit Bu­lut said the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of the is­land and “its sur­ren­der to the EU will mark the end to the no­tions of Turk­ism and Is­lam in the re­gion.” He also said Turk­ish ci­ti­zens would need a visa to visit the Turk­ish-oc­cu­pied north in case of a deal. “[Un­der these cir­cum­stances] do we hand over Cyprus to the EU and then plead for Schen­gen val­i­da­tion? This is an as­sas­si­na­tion,” Bu­lut ar­gued, be­fore adding that if the north did not wish to go on un­der its cur­rent regime, “it will turn into a Turk­ish prov­ince and carry on in that way.”

Mean­while, Cyprus Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades and Turk­ish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Ak­inci are to meet separately with the UN spe­cial ad­viser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, on Mon­day to dis­cuss whether there is scope for the re­sump­tion of talks.

Anas­tasi­ades con­vened Cyprus’s Gov­ern­ing Coun­cil to brief party lead­ers on what hap­pened at Mt Pelerin and also sought to dis­miss spec­u­la­tion that there were crack in lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Athens. The Cypriot leader said re­la­tions with the Greek gov­ern­ment and Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras are “ex­cel­lent” and called for an end to spec­u­la­tion at these “cru­cial times.”

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