by George Kentas, Research Fellow


Although they have been member states of the EU since May 1st 2004, Cyprus and Malta do not

fully participate in the Union’s common European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). In Copenhagen

(Dec. 2002), the European Council decided that the EU member states which are also members of

either NATO or the Partnership for Peace (PfP) are eligible to participate in the ESDP’s operations

which are conducted using NATO assets. The Council decision reflected the provisions of an EU-NATO

agreement, known as the ‘Berlin Plus’ agreement, which spells out the conditions under which the EU

could maintain access to the assets of the Atlantic Alliance. Lacking some important strategic assets

and capabilities, the EU depends heavily on NATO to undertake crisis management missions, as well

as peacemaking and peacekeeping operations, known as the Petersburg Tasks.


For a period of about two years (December 2000-December 2002), the ‘Berlin Plus’ agreement, although

eagerly negotiated between NATO and EU diplomats, could not be finalized. The problem was Turkey.

Unless its demands were taken fully into consideration, Turkey threatened to use its veto power in

NATO to block that agreement. Turkey sought full association with the ESDP operations conducted

with the use of NATO assets. Further, it demanded that the EU should be committed not to perform

any military operation in geographical proximity to its territory. This demand implied that the EU could

not conduct any military operation in either the Aegean Sea or Cyprus. Last but not least, Turkey insisted

that Cyprus should be excluded form all European security structures. Turkey was thus demanding that

Cyprus –a state it does not recognize– should be excluded from the ESDP’s operations employing NATO

assets and be denied accession to NATO and/or the PfP. In the face of a possible deadlock, British,

American and Turkish diplomats engaged in negotiations that led to agreement on a blueprint known

as the “Ankara Text”. That text addressed all Turkish concerns and was used as the basis for a final

agreement between the EU and NATO.


According to EU decisions taken in December 2000, October 2002 and December 2002, all the European

member states of NATO, which are not members of the EU, can participate in the preparation and

implementation of ESDP operations drawing on NATO assets. Further, in the event of a potential operation

in geographical proximity with a European member state of NATO, which is not a member of the EU, the

Union’s Council shall take into consideration that state’s national interests and consult with it about any

reservations it may have with regard to the proposed operation. Last but not least, the EU decided that

“the ‘Berlin Plus’ arrangements and the implementation thereof will apply only to those EU member states

which are also either NATO members or parties to the Partnership for Peace, and which have consequently

concluded bilateral security agreements with NATO”.


Hence, Cyprus and Malta, two European states which are members of neither NATO nor PfP, but joined

the EU two years after the Copenhagen Council decision, cannot participate in the ESDP’s missions

employing NATO assets. Likewise, their representatives do not participate or vote in EU institutions and

bodies, including the Political and Security Committee, with regard to decisions that concern the

implementation of such operations. Further, they do not have the right to receive EU classified information

that contains or refers to any classified NATO information. Although it joined PfP in 1995, Malta

withdrew from that NATO program a year later. Cyprus has so far expressed no interest in joining PfP.


Less than one year after the EU’s latest enlargement, which incorporated ten new member states including

Cyprus and Malta, some problems have been encountered in relation to EU-NATO cooperation. Until last

May, EU and NATO diplomats regularly met to discuss security issues under the ‘Berlin Plus’ agreement.

However, Malta and Cyprus cannot participate in the meetings. Turkey objects to their participation arguing

that they are not members of the PfP, the criterion for participation. Although EU and NATO diplomats have

been urging it to ease its objections, Turkey has opted to link the possibility of reconsidering Cyprus’ and

Malta’s participation in EU-NATO meetings with the satisfaction of its demand to couple EU financial

assistance to its protectorate in Cyprus (“TRNC”), with trade and travel through illegal entry

points (ports and airports) in the occupied part of Cyprus. As a result of these developments, EU-NATO

relations are deteriorating. So long as Turkey objects to Cyprus’ and Malta’s participation in EU-NATO

meetings, the delegates of the two organizations will not be able to engage in serious discussions on

intelligence matters. Further, so long as Turkey claims that NATO should not transmit classified

information to the EU because this information might end up in the hands of Cyprus or Malta, NATO and

 the EU would not be able to share classified information and, therefore, could not sustain cooperation

on early-warning tasks.


In spite of the fact that Turkey invokes Cyprus’ and Malta’s non-participation in the PfP program to

block their participating in EU-NATO meetings, these two EU member states have not shown any

interest in acceding to the PfP. Austria, Sweden, Iceland and Finland, four EU member states which

are not members of NATO because of their neutrality, have joined NATO’s PfP and, therefore,

have access to the joint EU-NATO meetings related to security and military operations. By

remaining indifferent to PfP membership, Cyprus and Malta run the risk of becoming part of

the problem in EU-NATO cooperation. Up until now, it was Turkey that caused obstructions to the

coordination between those organizations. Since Cyprus and Malta now are members of the EU, they

cannot remain apathetic to the need for normal EU-NATO cooperation. These two countries have

to consider seriously applying to join the PfP. Even if Turkey insists on blocking their accession –

or the accession of Cyprus only – they would have at least demonstrated their desire and willingness

to be part of the western defense structure and would have also unequivocally placed the blame for

lack of cooperation where it belongs. Being neutral states, Cyprus and Malta would only benefit from

joining NATO’s PfP; they will have access to EU-NATO meetings, become eligible to participate in the

ESDP’s Petersburg Tasks drawing on NATO assets, and improve their strategic weight.


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