Rhein on Energy and Climate

The 1964 Association Agreement between the “European Economic Community” (EEC) and Turkey provided for the establishment of far-reaching economic cooperation, from a customs union to free movement of labour; in the preamble it also contained a reference to possible membership of what was at that time a union of modest ambitions and achievements.

The almost 40 years that have passed since were marked less by mutual confidence than by frictions and mutual recriminations. The EU has blamed Turkey for repeated violations of basic human rights and lack of democracy, while Turkey has been frustrated with the delays of time tables concerning the customs union and free movement of labour.

Since 1974, the Turkish military occupation of northern Cyprus and recurrent tensions between Turkey and Greece have constantly thrown shadows on EU-Turkey relations, especially since Greek EU-membership in 1981.

No surprise that it has taken until 1995 before the customs union was finalised and until 2005 before accession negotiations were opened. Free movement of labour and visa-free entry of Turkish of citizens continue to remain void hopes.

Accession negotiations have essentially come to a standstill on the unresolved issue of Cyprus: The non-recognition by Turkey of the Republic of Cyprus and Turkish military presence in northern Cyprus continue to be the stumbling blocks.

Since July 2011 tensions about Cyprus have reached a new climax, caused by the discovery of natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly in the economic zones of Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus. Cyprus has infuriated Turkey by concluding an agreement with Israel on the delimitation of their respective economic zones. The anger culminated in September 2011 with the government of the Republic of Cyprus deciding to start drilling for gas south-east of the island and the Turkish government threatening the use of military force to prevent this from happening and then concluding an agreement on the delimitation of the continental shelf with the government of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which since its creation in 1983 has not been recognised by any other country.

To make things even worse, Turkey has threatened to suspend relations with the European Union in July 2012 when the Republic of Cyprus will routinely take over the rotating EU Presidency, unless negotiations on the reunification of the island will have been successfully concluded by then, which seems very unlikely.

Turkey seems so sure of itself and eager to be the major political and economic player in the Middle East that it feels free to provoke the European Union and one its member countries. Through the way it has behaved in recent weeks it has put in jeopardy its bid for EU membership. It will be extremely difficult to heal the rift.

The continued military presence of some 30 00 Turkish soldiers and the illegal settlement of up to 150 000 citizens from Turkey in the northern part of Cyprus make it impossible for the EU to accept Turkey in its midst. Turkey has always considered Cyprus as a strategic defence of its sensitive southern coast; its military and economic presence there suits its ambitions as a regional power. Why should it abandon such a precious asset against an uncertain outcome of its bid for EU membership, even it may formally wish to pursue negotiations?

In conclusion, by September 2011 Turkish EU membership appears more distant and doubtful than ever. With its 70 million dynamic people Turkey feels strong enough to stand alone. As one of the booming economic powers on earth, member of OECD and G20, emulated as an example by Arab neighbours it considers EU membership no longer necessary for its economic development and politically more of burden than of benefit.

Conversely, in the EU institutions Turkey would constitute anything but a cosy partner to deal with. France and Germany have long felt this.

The best way out of this intractable situation would be to quietly wind down accession negotiations and establish a “privileged relationship”, the terms of which will have to be defined. For the time being, economic relations will continue to flourish based on the customs union which has led to close economic links.

But Turkey will never be a comfortable partner. EU-Turkey relations will continue to be marked by “Lows” and “Highs” as during the past decades. They will need enhanced care and sensitivity from both sides to keep them from derailing, which would not be in either interest.

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  1. On the whole, a ER’s is a sad, but reasonable analysis. One only needs to tally up gains and losses of a broken relationship, the first candidate country to fail in its bid for membership. Debt-ridden Europe stands to lose more than a dynamic Turkey increasingly a dominant player in the vital energy-rich region of Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey, not EU, will emerge as the “secular model” for the Muslim world blending democracy with Islam. EU, if it survives the Euro crisis, will increasingly become a house divided and turn on itself: Germany and France will call the shots and members of the periphery will be angry and revolt, like the Greeks of Athens now. The next generation may well ask: What happened to the dream of a united Europe of Values? One showing the rest of the world by its own example the way to inter-cultural tolerance?
    Ozay Mehmet, prof. emeritus, carleton university

  2. dear sir,
    the status between turkey and eu today has very little to do with the compatibility of turkey to eu, and cyprus matter being an obstacle is completely a political decision by eu countries not a legal one.
    eu dealings on cyprus matter conveys two unfortunate messages to the parties: to the greek side, “it is ok you broke your agreements, as long as you let me benefit from the situation.” to the turkish side, “I will not make an effort to make it right. forget your rights, let’s get it over with.” here I will make an effort to elaborate on the historical facts which happen to be missing in some of the articles published in euractiv on the matter:
    1. it is the so-called turkish invasion which prevented the massacres of turkish-cypriots at the hands of greeks, and annexation of island with greece. this would reduce the status of turks on the island to minority. there have been multiple attempts by greece and greek-cypriots to annex the island to grece, last one in 1974, after which turkish army intervened.
    2. greek-cypriots put aside in 1963 the constitution that they had done in 1960 which recognizes the turkish-cypriots as equals, and they did not change this up until turkish intervention in 1974. hard to believe they changed after 1974.it is the 1974 so-called invasion that provided the peace for the turkish-cypriots.
    3. turkish presence on island is turkey’s guarantor right. meaning turkey is a guarantor of an independent cyprus where both greek and turkish parties are equals. it has the legal right to keep the army until this is secured again.
    4. according to agreements signed by turkey, greece, uk, and cyprus, (1) greek-cypriots cannot represent the whole of island. neither, turks can. (2) cyprus cannot become a member of eu before turkey is a member. eu has played a part in breaking this agreement when accepting greek-cypriot side as sole representative of the island.
    5. you cannot explain the turkey’s dealings in cyprus only by referring to it as a strategic military post for turkey. one needs to put into picture (1) british military and communication sides on island and their roles in middle east operations in the past (2) american bases on island (3) the greatest overseas russian naval base on syrian coast.
    6. one cannot explain the turkish reaction to the recent events only as a desire for a share from the natural gas resources. as I explained above, greek-cypriot side cannot make an agreement with israel not other countries as the sole representative of the island for an eez.
    7. it is already a big compromise that turkish side is still on the table to reach an agreement with the greek side. in the latest big effort by un, greek side rejected the un proposal at the last day fooling both un and eu representatives on the matter. statements on the deception by greek-cypriots are on records both in un and eu documents.
    best regards.

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