Turkey Loses With EU
Following the breakdown of United Nations-led negotiations on the re-unification of Cyprus, the European Commission announced March 11 that the European Union will admit only the Greek-speaking half of Cyprus when it takes in 12 new members next year.
The talks, conducted at The Hague, were aimed at re-uniting the Greek south of the island and the Turkish north—a state recognized only by Turkey, which invaded Cyprus following a failed Greek coup intended to merge the island with Greece in 1974. The failure of the talks came when the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, rejected the U.N. plan to bring the two sides together under a single weak central government. Denktash held out for official recognition of the Turkish occupied north.
However, a broader issue is at stake. Denktash’s rejection of the U.N. plan for Cyprus does not bode well for Turkey’s bid to enter the EU fold.
Jean-Christophe Filori, a spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen, said that unless the two sides of the island agreed to unite by May 2004, “it will be difficult to imagine starting negotiations” to admit Turkey into the EU (International Herald Tribune, March 12).
Filori explained that if there was still no settlement by the end of 2004, the EU “will be facing this rather weird situation where a candidate country knocking at the door does not recognize one of our own member states” (Guardian, London, March 12).
Filori went so far as to say that if a solution wasn’t found by the time the Greek Cypriots joined the EU, that Turkey would be “militarily occupying one of our member states” (Associated Press, March 12).
Turkey and Northern Cyprus do seem to be caught on a back foot. Moreover, once Cyprus’s accession to Europe occurs in the coming year, the government of the southern Greek side may become the official government over the whole island, at least within a European legal framework. Filori said the treaty to join the EU “will be signed by Cyprus as we know it today”—meaning the government of the Greek half of Cyprus, the only internationally recognized Cypriot authority (International Herald Tribune, op. cit.).
Europe is well on its way to engulfing Cyprus, a prized piece of strategic real estate in the eastern Mediterranean, as a military base pointing into the Middle East and Persian Gulf.