EU, Turkey 'reach deal' to start accession talks

17th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

17 December 2004 , AMSTERDAM — A deal was struck between European Union President Jan Peter Balkenende, his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the largest EU nations on Friday to break a stalemate over the recognition of Cyprus.

17 December 2004

AMSTERDAM — A deal was struck between European Union President Jan Peter Balkenende, his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the largest EU nations on Friday to break a stalemate over the recognition of Cyprus.

Sources indicated that Balkenende, Erdogan and the large EU nations had agreed on the demands to be imposed on Turkey, but it was not immediately clear if new EU member Cyprus would approve of the deal. And neither the EU nor Turkey have officially confirmed the agreement.

EU leaders had offered on Thursday night to begin full membership talks with Turkey on condition it recognises Cyprus. But Turkey rejected the demand, forcing Balkenende to present a new proposal to the leaders of the 25 EU member states on Friday morning.

Further details about the compromise between Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan were not immediately known, but Turkey will reportedly sign the so-called Ankara accords before the start of accession talks on 3 October.

The Ankara accords regulate the expansion of the customs union between the EU and Turkey. Implicitly, it means that Turkey has recognised Cyprus because the expansion of the customs union regulates the relationship between Turkey and the 10 new EU member states, including Cyprus.

It meant that Turkey could avoid signing an accord on Friday and thus recognising Cyprus straight away. But the deal effectively grants recognition to the Greek Cypriot government and gives Turkey more time to sell the idea to its population.

Cyprus has been divided into a Greek and Turkish region since 1974 following a Greek-Cypriot coup that had the support of the military junta in Greece. This was answered by a Turkish invasion in the northern section of the island and there are still 30,000 Turkish troops stationed there.

Turkey is only prepared to officially recognise Cyprus when the two regions are united and a UN peacekeeping plan is unveiled. A peace proposal unveiled by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was rejected by the Greek-Cypriots in April.

Balkenende spoke for three hours on Thursday night and Friday morning with Erdogan. At those meetings, Erdogan reportedly told Balkenende that the EU was placing the interests of 600,000 Greek-Cypriots before those of 70 million Turkish citizens.

For his part, Balkenende was placed in a difficult position after EU leaders agreed unexpectedly quickly during dinner in Brussels on Thursday night to start accession talks with Turkey. But they left very little room to compromise on the Cyprus issue.

Balkenende met with French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair after Turkey rejected the EU offer. The Greeks and Greek-Cypriots were also present at the meeting and the leaders met in the early afternoon to work out a new proposal.

The agreement between EU leaders on Thursday night has the objective of allowing Turkey to become a full EU member in 10 to 15 years. But the EU has also placed no guarantee on a positive outcome of the accession talks.

Prime Minister Balkenende said if the talks fail, the EU must ensure that Turkey remains anchored to "European structures" by establishing as close as possible links.

The statement is expected to please nations such as Austria, France and Denmark, which are fiercely sceptical of Turkey's entry to the EU. They would instead prefer to offer Turkey a privileged partnership or special status.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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