Turkey’s bro­ken path to EU mem­ber­ship,

AR­TI­CLE IN BRIEF: As oil and gas ex­plo­ration com­mences off the east Mediter­ranean is­land of Cyprus, Turkey’s founder­ing EU ne­go­ti­a­tions are again likely to come un­der the spot­light, de­spite a lack of do­mes­tic in­ter­est in the is­sue. An ex­am­i­na­tion of the i

Turkish Review - - CONTENTS - By Sylvia Tiryaki

When one wishes to travel from Turkey to the Euro­pean Union ter­ri­to­ries, one log­i­cally turns west and con­tin­ues un­til reach­ing the first bor­der -- that of Greece or Bul­garia, both slightly over 200 kilo­me­ters’ driv­ing dis­tance from İstanbul. How­ever, given the po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties of the 21st cen­tury, if Turkey wishes to con­tinue on its Euro­pean jour­ney it ought to turn east, to­ward the very end of the east­ern Mediter­ranean, where the is­land of Cyprus is sit­u­ated. There lies the key to Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship.

Rea­sons for Turkey’s stalled EU ac­ces­sion process

Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship in gen­eral and the qual­ity (and quan­tity) of the ne­go­ti­a­tion process in par­tic­u­lar be­came an­chored to the Cyprus is­sue after the Repub­lic of Cyprus (Greek Cyprus) joined the EU dur­ing the 2004 en­large­ment.

Rec­og­nized as a can­di­date coun­try by the Helsinki Euro­pean Coun­cil in 1999, Turkey of­fi­cially be­gan EU ac­ces­sion ne­go­ti­a­tions on Oct. 3, 2005. In the­ory, Turkey was then to be­gin the process of ne­go­ti­at­ing 35 chap­ters. Yet, in prac­tice, fully six years later only 13 chap­ters have been opened and just one of them has been closed pro­vi­sion­ally -- the re­main­ing chap­ters have been frozen. (“Frozen” is a term that does not orig­i­nate from the lan­guage of a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence; in the new EU ter­mi­nol­ogy it refers to some­thing cur­rently on hold. It seems to be used when it is de­sir­able to avoid the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences of us­ing another word: stale­mate.) Fur­ther­more, only three chap­ters can cur­rently be opened; all of the other chap­ters have been blocked by the Repub­lic of Cyprus or be­cause of the Cyprus is­sue.

Specif­i­cally, the Repub­lic of Cyprus has ob­structed the open­ing of six of the ne­go­ti­a­tion chap­ters, and eight have been blocked be­cause of the Cyprus is­sue it­self. France has halted a fur­ther five chap­ters on the grounds that open­ing those chap­ters would bring Turkey “closer to Europe.”

In ad­di­tion to the freez­ing of all of th­ese chap­ters, it has been de­cided that none of the ne­go­ti­ated chap­ters -- even those that have been opened -- can be closed

prior to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Ad­di­tional Pro­to­col adapt­ing the As­so­ci­a­tion Agree­ment be­tween Turkey and the Euro­pean Union, im­plic­itly re­quir­ing the open­ing of Turkey’s ports and air­ports to Repub­lic of Cyprus-flagged ves­sels. In De­cem­ber 2006, the Coun­cil of the EU re­leased the fol­low­ing state­ment: “[T]he Coun­cil de­cided in par­tic­u­lar to sus­pend ne­go­ti­a­tions on eight chap­ters rel­e­vant to Turkey’s re­stric­tions with re­gard to the Repub­lic of Cyprus, and will not close the other chap­ters un­til Turkey ful­fils its com­mit­ments un­der the ad­di­tional pro­to­col to the EU-Turkey as­so­ci­a­tion agree­ment, which ex­tended the EU-Turkey cus­toms union to the ten mem­ber states, in­clud­ing Cyprus, that joined the EU in May 2004.”

In the past, Turk­ish politi­cians and the pub­lic would pay close at­ten­tion to the num­ber of chap­ters frozen and those await­ing the le­gal har­mo­niza­tion process. But after the num­ber of chap­ters un­af­fected by the po­lit­i­cal ex­pec­ta­tions of some EU mem­ber states boiled down to three -- the most dif­fi­cult chap­ters: Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment, Com­pe­ti­tion Pol­icy and So­cial Pol­icy and Em­ploy­ment -- no one counted the frozen chap­ters any­more. With or with­out the chap­ters life goes on in Turkey; the train has crashed and no one seems to have even no­ticed.

It is a pity, of course. Not life’s go­ing on in Turkey with­out the chap­ters be­ing ne­go­ti­ated: The coun­try’s GDP reached ap­prox­i­mately $174 bil­lion in the first quar­ter of 2011, rep­re­sent­ing a growth rate of almost 10 per­cent. No, the pity is that the sit­u­a­tion is what it is; that per­haps as a re­sult of a par­tial read­ing of the his­tory of the Cyprus prob­lem the lan­guage of the of­fi­cial EU doc­u­ments on the Cyprus con­flict has lit­tle to do with a vi­sion for a com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion and still calls on Turkey to take uni­lat­eral mea­sures.

It is dif­fi­cult for the Turk­ish pub­lic to un­der­stand why the un­re­solved Cyprus con­flict was not an ob­sta­cle to the 2004 EU ac­ces­sion of the Repub­lic of Cyprus, but is the main stum­bling block be­fore Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship. Per­haps the pub­lic also be­lieves that the EU has been us­ing its Euro­peaniza­tion project in the case of Turkey to le­git­imize the decision it made in the case of Repub­lic of Cyprus, i.e., to ac­cept a coun­try in­ter­nally di­vided and not rep­re­sented by both con­sti­tu­tional part­ners.

By forc­ing Turkey to nor­mal­ize re­la­tions with the Repub­lic of Cyprus be­fore a so­lu­tion to the Cyprus prob­lem, it seems as if the EU is try­ing to ac­knowl- edge a fact that it ig­nored when ad­mit­ting Cyprus into the Union in 2004: Ar­ti­cle 2 of the con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of Cyprus stip­u­lates that the pres­i­dent of the coun­try must be Greek and the vice pres­i­dent Turk­ish, each elected by the Greek and Turk­ish com­mu­ni­ties, re­spec­tively. Fur­ther­more, Ar­ti­cle 3 de­clares that the of­fi­cial lan­guages of the Repub­lic of Cyprus are Greek and Turk­ish.

EU treaties are sup­posed to be writ­ten in all of the mem­ber states’ of­fi­cial lan­guages, but in the case of Cyprus one of the of­fi­cial lan­guages is miss­ing. The treaties have not been drafted in an au­then­tic Turk­ish text. In ad­di­tion, the Turk­ish Cypri­ots, de­spite be­ing EU cit­i­zens, do not have the op­tion of us­ing their own of­fi­cial EU lan­guage when con­tact­ing Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions.

This sit­u­a­tion is in­deed an anom­aly and con­trary to the pri­mary goal of the ac­ces­sion of Cyprus to the EU, which is (ac­cord­ing to Pro­to­col 10 to the Act of Ac­ces­sion) for the “ben­e­fit [of] all Cypriot cit­i­zens.”

Due to th­ese in­con­sis­ten­cies, while Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jose Manuel Bar­roso’s state­ment dur­ing a BBC in­ter­view that Turkey would not be able to join the EU be­fore 2021 caused up­roar among Turks in 2006, nowa­days few pay at­ten­tion to any dead­lines from the EU or de­vel­op­ments on the EU front.

Not so long ago, talks on “priv­i­leged part­ner­ship” cre­ated a stir in the Turk­ish pub­lic de­bate on the EU. As there is no dif­fer­ence be­tween the ba­sic el­e­ments of

For­eign Min­is­ter Ab­dul­lah Gül ex­pressed pub­licly in his speech to the am­bas­sadors of EU mem­ber states in Ankara as early as 2005: “There are things that Turkey can­not do by it­self. Ex­pe­ri­ence shows that on the Cyprus is­sue for ex­am­ple, Turkey’s ef­fort alone is not enough to achieve a com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion.”

In­deed, even if Turkey uni­lat­er­ally ful­fills its obli­ga­tions stem­ming from the cus­toms union, this would mean noth­ing in terms of reach­ing a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem, specif­i­cally a just so­lu­tion that takes the con­cerns of both the Greek and Turk­ish Cypri­ots into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Con­tin­u­ing iso­la­tion of Turk­ish Cypri­ots

All con­cerned par­ties have given many po­lit­i­cal and le­gal prom­ises since the failed re­uni­fi­ca­tion at­tempt on the is­land. On April 26, 2004, at the Coun­cil of For­eign Min­is­ters, only two days after the fail­ure of the thenUN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Kofi An­nan’s epony­mous plan, the EU gave a for­mal prom­ise to open up trade with the Turk­ish Cypri­ots in the form of the Di­rect Trade and Fi­nan­cial Aid Reg­u­la­tions.

This move was meant as a kind of re­im­burse­ment for their un­ful­filled de­sire for re­uni­fi­ca­tion. Almost simultaneously, Turkey promised to ac­cept the Repub­lic of Cyprus (rep­re­sented solely by the Greek Cypriot side) as a le­git­i­mate coun­ter­part in the cus­toms union es­tab­lished in 1995. This was in turn seen as a pledge to open Turk­ish ports and air­ports to Greek Cypriot ves­sels.

Adopt­ing the Di­rect Trade Reg­u­la­tion as it was pro­posed would be in line with the logic of Ar­ti­cle 3(1) of the Pro­to­col (10) on Cyprus: “[N]oth­ing in this Pro­to­col shall pre­clude mea­sures with a view to pro­mot­ing the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the ar­eas re­ferred to in Ar­ti­cle 1,” mean­ing north­ern Cyprus.

Yet, although it is ob­vi­ous from the re­sults of the 2004 ref­er­enda on the An­nan Plan that the sus­pen­sion of the ac­quis is not the fault of the Turk­ish Cypri­ots, the gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Cyprus ar­gued that fos­ter­ing trade with the Turk­ish Cypri­ots would vi­o­late the duty of loy­alty of the EU vis-à-vis Cyprus as a mem­ber state. Fur­ther­more, the Repub­lic of Cyprus gov­ern­ment held that the EU can­not uni­lat­er­ally es­tab­lish trade re­la­tions with ar­eas not un­der the Repub­lic of Cyprus’s ef­fec­tive con­trol, be­cause this would run counter to its 1974 decision to close all ports out­side its con­trol.

In con­trast to the Repub­lic of Cyprus’s do­mes­tic decision to close the Turk­ish Cypriot ports in North­ern Cyprus to in­ter­na­tional traf­fic, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s un­der­stand­ing is that “there is no pro­hi­bi­tion un­der gen­eral in­ter­na­tional law to en­ter and leave sea­ports in the north­ern part of Cyprus.”

More­over, when the EU im­poses sanc­tions or “re­stric­tive mea­sures” against a cer­tain en­tity or per­son, it does so openly and pub­licly, an­nounc­ing it on the of­fi­cial EU web­site. While there are many EU sanc­tion regimes that im­ple­ment UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tions adopted un­der Chap­ter VII of the Char­ter of the United Na­tions in ad­di­tion to au­ton­o­mous EU regimes, none of th­ese tar­get the Turk­ish Cypri­ots. In fact, di­rect trade, along with other forms of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion with the Turk­ish Cypri­ots, con­tin­ued for some time after 1984.

So far, noth­ing has been done vis-à-vis the lifting -- or at least eas­ing -- of the iso­la­tion of the Turk­ish Cypri­ots. Uni­lat­eral ac­tion from Turkey de­manded by the EU would likely be an un­bal­anc­ing fac­tor in the

set­tle­ment ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the lead­ers of the two com­mu­ni­ties in Cyprus. There­fore, Turkey pro­posed an “ac­tion plan” on the Cyprus is­sue on Jan. 24, 2006.

This “for­mula” es­tab­lished a po­lit­i­cal link­age be­tween end­ing the iso­la­tion im­posed on the Turk­ish Cypri­ots, in line with writ­ten dec­la­ra­tion of the Euro­pean Coun­cil on April 26, 2004, and the ful­fill­ment of cus­toms union re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to­wards the Repub­lic of Cyprus. That would mean a bi­lat­eral move, open­ing the ports not only in Turkey but also those in the North­ern Cyprus to di­rect trade.

This pro­posal was fur­ther fine-tuned by State Min­is­ter for EU Af­fairs Ege­men Bağış: In Oc­to­ber 2009, at the an­nual Bospho­rus Con­fer­ence, he stated twice that the en­dorse­ment of the Di­rect Trade Reg­u­la­tion would be suf­fi­cient for Turkey to take re­cip­ro­cal ac­tion. There were then sev­eral com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Turkey and the Repub­lic of Cyprus through in­ter­me­di­aries on this topic in late 2010.

While only his­tory will tell whether the Turk­ish


For­eign Min­istry’s decision to make this po­lit­i­cal link­age was the right one, at present its pro­posal, call­ing for all par­ties to act to­gether and move ahead, has been turned down both by the Greek Cypri­ots as well as of­fi­cials in the EU.

In­stead, the EU’s Gen­eral Af­fairs & Ex­ter­nal Re­la­tions Coun­cil has de­manded that Turkey “ful­fill its obli­ga­tion of full non-dis­crim­i­na­tory im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Ad­di­tional Pro­to­col to the As­so­ci­a­tion Agree­ment.” The coun­cil de­clared that in the ab­sence of progress on this is­sue it would main­tain its mea­sures from 2006, im­pact­ing the over­all progress in Turk­ish-EU ne­go­ti­a­tions. In other words, the whole process re­mains sus­pended, with only three chap­ters opened and none closed, while noth­ing will be done to lessen the iso­la­tion of the Turk­ish Cypri­ots.

It has be­come ap­par­ent that con­tin­u­ing on the same path will not yield any pos­i­tive re­sults or a way out of the cur­rent stale­mate. On the con­trary, only in­no­va­tive ideas, or the cre­ation of new paths, as it were, would be mean­ing­ful at present.

Yet the EU mem­ber coun­tries are nei­ther ready nor will­ing to find an imag­i­na­tive so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of Cyprus. In­deed, why would th­ese coun­tries spend time think­ing about how to re­move a ma­jor ob­sta­cle to Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship when most have lit­tle ap­petite for Turkey’s join­ing the bloc or even for ex­tend­ing its bor­ders. Fur­ther­more, en­large­ment is no longer an is­sue on the daily agenda of the av­er­age Euro­pean cit­i­zen, as the con­tin­u­ing eco­nomic cri­sis dom­i­nates every­day de­bates.

As al­ways, Euro­barom­e­ter sur­veys re­flect this trend. The Euro­barom­e­ter Re­port from 2009-2010 pri­mar­ily fo­cuses on the 2008-2009 eco­nomic cri­sis, which it terms “the most se­ri­ous eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial cri­sis since 1929.” The majority of sur­veys are on econ­o­myre­lated is­sues. Sur­veys on pub­lic opin­ion, the euro, eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors, and also is­sues of EU gov­er­nance dom­i­nate. The is­sue of Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship no longer con­sti­tutes a sep­a­rate ques­tion in the sur­veys, and whether it joins the union or not seems to be a less po­lar­iz­ing is­sue than was pre­vi­ously the case.

So the fact is that both Turkey and the EU are hes­i­tant about their joint fu­ture, and calls to lift the iso­la­tion of the Turk­ish Cypri­ots, whether uni­lat­er­ally or even in con­cert with Turkey, have fallen on deaf ears in the EU so far. The ab­sence of a so­lu­tion to the Cyprus prob­lem is the most com­monly cited rea­son for not al­low­ing Turk­ish Cypri­ots to de­velop eco­nom­i­cally ei­ther through di­rect trade or oth­er­wise. Greek Cypriot of­fi­cials have re­peated many times that it would not be pru­dent to touch upon the is­sue while ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the lead­ers are tak­ing place. The os­ten­si­ble rea­son for not act­ing on this is­sue is that lifting the iso­la­tion should be the fi­nal re­sult of the con­flict res­o­lu­tion talks dis­cussed by the lead­ers.

Let us re­mind our­selves that the re­spec­tive lead­ers of the Greek and Turk­ish Cypriot com­mu­ni­ties have been ne­go­ti­at­ing since 1968. And fol­low­ing the decision of April 2004, on Jan. 22, 2007, the Euro­pean Coun­cil de­cided to take steps to­wards the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the Turk­ish Cypriot com­mu­nity “with­out de­lay.”

Yet the almost five years of in­ac­tion that have passed since then con­sti­tutes “a de­lay” by any rea­son­able stan­dard. Turk­ish Cypri­ots have to wait for

per­mis­sion to de­velop eco­nom­i­cally, pend­ing the so­lu­tion. On the other hand, the sit­u­a­tion is in no way at a stand­still when it comes to the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the Greek Cypri­ots.

The oil and nat­u­ral gas is­sue

At the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary 2007, the first round for award­ing li­cens­ing rights to ex­plore and ex­ploit Cyprus’ off­shore oil and gas de­posits was opened. The ex­plo­ration rights were given to Texas-based Noble En­ergy, which -- in line with the li­cens­ing agree­ment -- must start drilling be­tween Oc­to­ber 2011 and Oc­to­ber 2013. Drilling work has al­ready com­menced.

Greek Cypri­ots are hop­ing to find mas­sive hy­dro­car­bon fields un­der the seabed, ap­prox­i­mately 10 tril­lion cu­bic feet (tcf). Ac­cord­ing to Greek Cypriot of­fi­cials, Cyprus could be­come a key geopo­lit­i­cal and geostrate­gic player in the Mediter­ranean re­gion by of­fer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for new oil and gas sup­ply routes to Europe.

How­ever, as has been men­tioned, se­ri­ous is­sues re­main in terms of find­ing a so­lu­tion to the Cyprus is­sue. The “Cyprus” re­ferred to by Greek Cypriot of­fi­cials is at the mo­ment only rep­re­sented by Greek Cypri­ots, and this brings us to the ques­tion: Who has a right to what in Cyprus?

As ev­ery­one who has ever given any decision with re­spect to Cyprus surely knows, the Greek and the Turk­ish Cypri­ots are equal part­ners ac­cord­ing to the still valid -- though since 1963 dys­func­tional -- con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of Cyprus. Had the An­nan Plan, which en­vis­aged a fed­eral state of both Greek and Turk­ish Cypri­ots, been ac­cepted, the ex­plo­ration and ex­ploita­tion of hy­dro­car­bons would have been un­der the con­trol of the new fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

So how does this uni­lat­eral move of Greek Cypri­ots -- to ex­plore gas and oil in an area where mar­itime bor­ders are not fully set­tled -- fit into the peace talks about the joint fu­ture with Turk­ish Cypri­ots? Is oil in Cyprus a divine gift or a tool of de­struc­tion? For­mer Greek Cypriot For­eign Min­is­ter Ni­cos Rolan­dis (who can be con­sid­ered the ar­chi­tect of the hy­dro­car­bon deal) an­swered this ques­tion in 2006: “I be­lieve that if we try to ig­nore Turk­ish Cypri­ots and their in­ter­ests in this piv­otal is­sue [of off­shore oil and nat­u­ral gas] we shall choose a path of ‘de­struc­tion’” (Cyprus Mail, May 14, 2006). Con­duct­ing the drilling at this time and in a cor­ner of the Mediter­ranean home to more than one unre- solved con­flict, and bor­der­ing Le­banon and Is­rael, has great po­ten­tial to es­ca­late pre-ex­ist­ing re­gional ten­sions.

But the whole sit­u­a­tion can also be seen from another an­gle. The fact that Greek Cypri­ots will not wait for a fed­eral so­lu­tion be­fore al­low­ing the ex­plo­ration of gas and oil in the seabed sur­round­ing an area south of the ex­ist­ing bor­ders opens paths to dif­fer­ent out­comes. As time passes and de­ci­sions are made, there are fewer com­pe­tences left for a prospec­tive Cypriot fed­eral gov­ern­ment to cover. Turk­ish Cypri­ots will go on with their own hy­dro­car­bon ex­plo­ration on the ba­sis of rec­i­proc­ity. They will find other ways to de­velop eco­nom­i­cally. But fed­er­a­tion will no longer be fea­si­ble.

If so, it is def­i­nitely not a job for the Turk­ish navy to in­sist on a Greek Cypriot fed­eral ap­proach to hy­dro­car­bon ex­plo­ration set to com­mence in the area of 13 blocks cov­er­ing ap­prox­i­mately 51,000 square kilo­me­ters, all sit­u­ated south of the Green Line con­sti­tut­ing the ex­ist­ing bor­der with the Turk­ish Repub­lic of North­ern Cyprus (KKTC).


(R-L) Then-For­eign Min­is­ter Gül, thenBri­tish For­eign Min­is­ter Jack Straw and then-EU En­large­ment Com­mis­sioner Olli Rehn mark the start of Turkey’s ac­ces­sion ne­go­ti­a­tions with the EU. (Oct. 2, 2005)


Support for the An­nan Plan in 2004

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