Op-Ed on “The European Union Report on Turkey and Turkey’s Negotiating Tactics”
Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed appeared in the December 2, 2006 issue of The National Herald, page 11 and the December 4, 2006 issue of Greek News, page 36.
The European Union Report on Turkey and Turkey’s Negotiating Tactics
By Gene Rossides
The European Union (EU) Progress Report on Turkey released November 8, 2006 is highly critical of Turkey on practically all matters dealing with Turkey’s accession negotiations. First I will discuss the report and then comment of Turkey’s response and negotiating tactics.
There was no surprise in the comments that were included in the EU progress report on Turkey which covers the period of 10/1/05, when accession talks opened, until 9/30/06.
As it relates to Cyprus, the report is very blunt regarding Turkey’s failure to implement its commitments towards Cyprus which she is obligated to do when she signed an “Additional Protocol [The Ankara Protocol] extending the EC-Turkey Association Agreement to the ten Member States that acceded on May 1, 2004, which it [Turkey] had signed in July 2005 and which enabled the accession negotiations to start.”
Mr. Olli Rehn, the union’s expansion commissioner in sending a stern message to Turkey over its failures regarding Cyprus stated, “Failure to implement obligations will affect the overall progress of negotiations…” (NYTimes, Nov. 9, 2006, p.11.)
The report further states:
The report continues.
Turkey’s Relation with Greece
Regarding Turkey’s relation’s with Greece the report states that the Negotiating Framework includes the following requirement against which progress will be measured:
The report also notes that the “casus belli” reference remains “unchanged.” …
Religious Freedom (Ecumenical Patriarchate)
The reports language regarding religious freedom violations towards the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) are rather tempered. Religious freedom is a cornerstone of the values and principles of the European Union and its members, yet Turkey has made no progress in this regard. If anything, things have gotten progressively worse for the EP, especially as it relates to the properties of the Patriarchate, many of which have been confiscated.
The only reference in the 78 page report to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the following:
The report should have demanded that reforms must be implemented to safeguard the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to call on Turkey to open the Halki School of Theology within a reasonable time period.
The Other Issues
It’s important to note, however, that the issues covered in the report go well beyond the Cyprus problem, bilateral relations with Greece and religious freedom, all three of which cover only a few pages of the 78 page report. The other issues address Turkey’s compliance and adaptation to all of the 33 Chapters that are part of the accession negotiations.
The report follows the same format for all candidate and potential candidate states. Contrary to Turkey’s and to Washington’s claims, the EU has raised in the past all the issues addressed in the report. There are no new conditions introduced in Turkey’s accession negotiations. The issue of the EU’s “absorption capacity” reflects the assessment of the state of the union made following the latest EU accession (2004), the two new states that will likely become members in 2007, and the evaluation of the reasons that led to the rejection of the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands.
`The Report (pp. 1-24) examines the relations of Turkey with the EU and reviews (a) the enhanced political dialogue and the political criteria for membership; (b) democracy and the rule of law; (c) human rights including women’s rights and the protection of minorities including the Kurds; (d) regional issues and international obligations; (e) economic criteria.
The Report (pp. 24-30) reviews the Copenhagen criteria for the accession of new members (adopted by the EU a decade before its latest expansion); the functioning of a market economy; the country’s capacity to cope with economic forces within the EU; the ability to assume the obligations of membership.
The Report (pages 30-74) expands on the section on the “ability to assume the obligations of membership”. This section provides a substantive review of Turkey’s compliance/implementation of laws and policies on each of the 33 Chapters of the acquis communautaire that form the foundation of the accession negotiations for all applicant states. Topics range from the free movement of goods to fisheries, from intellectual property law to employment policies, etc. Critical are issues having to do with human rights, minority rights, the implementation of the Customs Union Agreement, external and good neighborly relations, justice, freedom and security. This important section has been well known to Turkey as it was also the foundation for the accession talks of the last 10 states that joined the EU in 2004.
Findings and Conclusions
Based on the analysis of the 33 chapters of the acquis and the Copenhagen accession criteria, the report presents a balanced but negative review of the progress made in Turkey since the start of the accession talks in October 2005. It also points to the slowing down of the reform process in Turkey and to the risks involved for Turkey’s accession talks if Turkey fails to comply with its contractual obligations.
The Report points to the progress made by the introduction and approval of some reform legislation as required by the EU. It also shows the lack of implementation of key reforms especially in the area of human rights and minority rights, the unfulfilled commitments made on trade and the removal of trade barriers and on the critical issue of civil military relations.
The Report is also explicitly clear on the burden Turkey has to improve bilateral relations and good neighborly relations (for example, the continued issue of the “casus belli” with Greece), to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, and to fully implement the Customs Union Agreement with Cyprus without linking this contractual obligation to other extraneous issues (such as the alleged “isolation of the Turkish Cypriots,” which isolation is actually caused by the Turkish military occupation of 37 percent of Cyprus and the Turkish barbed wire fence across Cyprus).
The bottom line is sad and simple: Greek-Turkish relations and Cyprus are important problems confronting the relations of Turkey with the EU. The many other problems facing the accession talks are serious and deep. This is affirmed in the report. It shows the long and difficult road that Turkey has to cover before reaching the end of the accession talks. The burden is on Turkey not on the EU. Turkey needs to reform, to implement these reforms, address bilateral and domestic issues like civil military relations, and meet all contractual obligations if the accession talks are to move forward.
The problems that Turkey has encountered in her European Union accession process, and that have been highlighted in the EU report, have been of her own making. She refuses to implement the Ankara Protocol, which she signed, to extend its customs union to Cyprus, an EU country, and she has not made any significant progress relating to democracy, religious freedom and the rule of law.
Turkey’s Response and Negotiating Tactics
Turkey’s response to the EU report was typical of her negotiating tactics- admit nothing and attack, attack and attack. Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul led the charge stating that Turkey would not succumb to “blackmail” in its dispute with the EU over Cyprus. The EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn responded: “We have had enough talk of ‘red lines’ and ‘blackmail,’” and urged Turkey to accept Finland’s proposal for trade from Cyprus.
The EU has stated repeatedly that Turkey must meet its obligation to trade with Cyprus by opening its ports and airports to planes and ships from Cyprus. Turkey signed the Ankara Protocol “extending the EC-Turkey Agreement to the ten Member States that acceded on May 1, 2004, which it [Turkey] signed in July 2005 and which enabled the accession negotiations to start.”
Commissioner Rehn told the European Parliament the compromise proposed by Finland, the current EU presidency holder was “a major confidence-building measure towards a comprehensive settlement” of the division. He said Turkey risked squandering what may be the last chance for years to resolve the division and also keep its EU membership ambitions on track. Under the Finnish compromise plan, Turkey would open its ports to planes and ships from Cyprus. To boost trade with the Turkish-occupied part of the island and end its so-called economic isolation, Famagusta would be opened to free trade under EU supervision and Turkey would return Varosha to its Greek Cypriot owners. Rehn said trade with Cyprus was an EU issue.
The EU has set a December 6 deadline for Turkey to accept the compromise plan. If not, the EU ministers, meeting the following week in Brussels, may well suspend Turkey’s accession talks.
Turkey’s negotiating aim is obvious. She wants to change the rules on requirements for accession negotiations and admission to the EU. Neither the Erdogan government or the Turkish military are interested or willing to meet Western standards of democracy.
Turkey cannot renegotiate its contractual accession terms and cannot link its compliance to these contractual obligations to other issues. No other EU candidate state has attempted to dictate its own accession terms. Let us not forget it is Turkey seeking accession to the EU and not the reverse.
U.S. continued appeasement of Turkey
Washington’s lobbying in Brussels on behalf of Turkey, despite its failure to meet contractual obligations, raises serious questions about US motives. Can Washington tell the EU what its accession criteria should be and who should be its members? That tactic failed in the past. In November 2002 Washington lobbied hard in order to get a date for Turkish accession talks at the EU meeting in Copenhagen. The tactic backfired.
When is Washington going to stop the double standard on the rule of law for Turkey?
When is Washington going to stop appeasing Turkey?
When is Washington going to condemn Turkey’s intransigence?
When is Washington going to call for (1) the removal of Turkish illegal forces and (2) illegal setters from Cyprus and (3) the tearing down of Turkey’s barbed wire fence?
Achieving the goals of genuine democratic freedoms, political stability and economic progress, will require fundamental changes in Turkey’s governmental institutions. The U.S. shares in these interests as well. To promote these interests, the U.S. should more forcefully exert it influence with Turkey, including the Turkish military. We need to be pressing for fundamental changes now, regardless of Turkey’s EU aspirations. It will be good for Turkey; good for Turkey’s neighbors; and good for U.S. interests.
Fortunately President Tassos Papadopoulos and the Greek Cypriot leaders are holding firm to their position. The U.S. in its own self-interest should openly support the position of the Cyprus government, particularly after Cyprus’ extraordinary efforts in the evacuation of 14,000 Americans from Lebanon.
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Op-Ed on “The European Union Report on Turkey and Turkey’s Negotiating Tactics”