The EU's Turkish Dilemma

        by Andreas Theophanous, Professor of Political Economy and Director General of the Center


Accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey are expected to start on October 3, 2005.  Despite this, Ankara remains inflexible on a number of issues, and in a way that may be indicative of a lack of adequate understanding of European norms.  The EU has been stretching itself to accommodate Turkey, but we should not rule out the possibility that such moves may come to haunt the Union later.


When Ankara signed the Protocol for extending the Customs Union with the ten new EU member states, it declared that it does not recognize the Republic of CyprusTurkey could have opted not to make any statement.  Such a policy option would have been seen as constructive and would have indicated a political will to address long-standing problems with a new perspective.


It is not only the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, a member state of the EU that may be problematic for the credibility of EU processes as well as of the potential of the Union to become a global political power.  More serious is the fact that Ankara continues to occupy almost 40% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus.  Repeatedly, the Annan Plan has been utilized to support the hypothesis that Ankara should not be blamed for the lack of progress toward a solution of the Cyprus problem.  The vast majority of Greek Cypriots thought, and rightly so, that the Annan Plan would have legitimized the outcome of the 1974 events and that at the same time it would have created a protectorate which would have collapsed anyway.  Sooner or later, it will become obvious to EU member states that Turkey aims at a solution which would legitimize the results of the 1974 events.  The Greek Cypriots will not accept such an outcome.  After all, they did not accept it before accession.  Why should they accept it now? 


Be that as it may and coming back to the question of Turkish inflexibility, other issues could be mentioned as well.  Obviously, much progress has been made in Turkey in several domains.  But still much remains to be done on several issues i.e. in relation to human rights (including the political rights of minorities).  Moreover, attention must be given to bridging the gap between, on the one hand, changes and reforms on paper and, on the other hand, their implementation on the ground.  Perhaps Turkey’s inflexibility is also the outcome of the strong support it receives from the US and certain countries in the EU, such as Britain.  In addition to the long-standing sustained relations between Britain and Turkey, London assumes that, with the accession of Turkey to the EU, the Union will be more of an economic union and less of a political entity.  The prospects of a strong and politically integrated EU would become very remote.


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