Focus on Turkey’s possible future accession

Cyprus Institute for Mediterranean, European and International Studies

In relation to the EU Enlargement process, the most pertinent issue in Cyprus is the increasingly convoluted prospect of Turkey’s possible future accession. In this connection, the Republic of Cyprus fully supports the points laid out in the Annual Strategy Document on Enlargement of the European Commission, dated 11 November 2007.
 
More specifically, the Government of the Republic supports the Strategy Document’s perceptions behind its recommendations to Turkey. The Document recognises the progress made by Turkey in such areas as women’s and children’s rights and the fight against torture, as well as the progress made in the economic field. Nevertheless, it points out that, “the implementation of reforms has been uneven and has slowed down since 2005. In the past year, Turkey went through a constitutional crisis concerning the election of the President of the Republic, which led to early parliamentary elections. The military made public statements beyond its remit”[1]. Our interlocutors in the Government of Cyprus favourably noted the Document’s insistence that Turkey needs to renew the momentum of political reforms, and that significant improvement needs to be made in relation to such issues as the freedom of expression, the rights of non-Muslim religious communities, the fight against corruption, judicial reform, trade union rights, women's and children's rights, as well as the accountability of the public administration.[2] The Cyprus Government welcomed as well the Commission’s position that Turkey needs to enhance the rights and freedoms of the predominantly Kurdish population of the South-East. Needless to say, these Cypriot responses stem from the Republic’s long endorsement of the thesis that Turkey’s “Europeanization” holds the promise to facilitate the normalization of Cyprus-Turkey relations.[3] It is worth recalling here that the EU has been calling for some time for this normalization, most notably in its “Counter-declaration” of 21 September 2005.[4]
 
As far as Turkey’s economy is concerned, the Strategy Document stresses that further structural economic reforms and fiscal consolidation are required, as well as further economic and social development in the South-East. Finally, the position of the Cyprus Government was reflected in the Document’s position that good neighbourly relations are required as well as that Turkey is expected to ensure full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement.[5]
 
Therefore, the reactions of the Cyprus Government to the Strategy Document were very positive, the official position being that Turkey must fulfil these obligations as outlined in the Document.
 
Similarly, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus fully supports the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) Conclusions of 10 December 2007, which stress the need for these reforms in Turkey. Most importantly for Cyprus, the GAERC Conclusions stipulate that, “in line with the Negotiating Framework and previous European Council and Council conclusions, Turkey needs to unequivocally commit to good neighbourly relations and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, including, if necessary, jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. In this context, any threat or action which could negatively affect good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes should be avoided”.[6]
 
The Cyprus Government further welcomed the Presidency Conclusions of 14 December 2007, where reference is made to the need to endorse the GAERC Conclusions: “The European Council takes note of the communication from the Commission on the Enlargement Strategy and endorses the General Affairs and External Relations Council conclusions of 10 December”.[7]
 
Finally, it is worth emphasizing that the Government of Cyprus, followed by numerous academics and opinion-makers, keeps reiterating the importance of the 21 September 2005 Declaration by the European Community and the member states, and especially paragraph 5 of the Declaration, which states: “Recognition of all Member States is a necessary component of the accession process. Accordingly, the EU underlines the importance it attaches to the normalisation of relations between Turkey and all EU Member States, as soon as possible”[8].
 
As regards the convoluted issue of Kosovo, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus had made it clear for some time that it opposes the unilateral declaration of independence. Cyprus insists that no such move could be made without United Nations (UN) backing. According to Cyprus Government spokesman, Vasilis Palmas, Nicosia will not recognise the unilateral independence of Kosovo, even if all the other member states of the EU agree towards that direction.[9]
 
This position of the Cyprus Government is shared widely by the country’s political parties, its political and academic elites, and by Cypriot public opinion. It is based on the fear, or rather the suspicion, that a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by Kosovo might create a deleterious precedent both in Europe and beyond. An attempt might possibly be made to use Kosovo’s UDI in the case of Cyprus, with regard to the self-declared “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”).
 
To be sure, the November 1983 UDI by the Turkey-occupied “TRNC” has only been recognised by Ankara. It was condemned immediately by the UN Security Council and by the European Community. Thus, the UN Security Council, by SC Resolution 541 (1983), stated that it “…1. Deplores the declaration of the Turkish Cypriot authorities of the purported secession of part of the Republic of Cyprus; 2. Considers the declaration referred to above as legally invalid and calls for its withdrawal; …7. Calls upon all States not to recognize any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus…” (emphasis added). One day after the UDI by the regime of Cyprus’s occupied territory, the then European Community emphatically condemned it: “The ten Member States of the European Community are deeply concerned by the declaration purporting to establish a `Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus` as an independent State. They reject this declaration which is in disregard of successive resolutions of the United Nations. The Ten reiterate their unconditional support for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus”.[10] Then, six months later, the Security Council, by Resolution 550 (1984), reaffirmed the condemnation as per resolution 541, demanding its urgent implementation. Turkey has not respected any of these, or any other, Cyprus-related UN resolutions and EC/EU decisions. Hence the condemned as illegal occupation of northern Cyprus continues for almost 34 years. Therefore, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, the country’s political elites and Cypriot public opinion seem to us justified in opposing a Kosovo UDI and upholding the principles of the UN Charter and associated norms of international law. For, otherwise, their position would be self-contradictory.
 
In response to the concerns of Cyprus and other fellow-member states,[11] the last European Council has tried to appease their governments, by outlining in its Conclusions that, “the European Council underlined its conviction that resolving the pending status of Kosovo constitutes a sui generis case that does not set any precedent”.[12] Slovenia, through its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dimitrij Rupel, stated, some days before taking over the Presidency of the EU, that it would try to convince Cyprus that Kosovo is indeed a sui generis case.[13]
 
The position of Cyprus vis-à-vis Kosovo was reiterated by Cypriot Foreign Minister, Erato Kozakou Markoullis, during her visits to Finland and Estonia in late January-early February 2008. In Helsinki, in fact, the Cypriot Foreign Minister disassociated Cyprus’s position on Kosovo from the Cyprus case, insisting, during a press conference with her Finnish counterpart, Mr Kanerva: “Our position on Kosovo focuses on the need to avoid setting a precedent in international relations by-passing the UN Security Council”.[14]
 
A few days later, concluding her visit to Tallinn, Ms Kozakou Markoullis, held a press conference with the Foreign Minister of Estonia, Mr Urmas Paet. Mr Paet stated that “Estonia fully respects the position of the Republic of Cyprus on the non-recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, an issue that falls within the jurisdiction of each state”. On this occasion, the Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs emphasized once again that “the Republic of Cyprus will not recognize the independence of Kosovo since this would create a precedent in international relations and would defy the role of the United Nations Security”.[15]
 
Finally, as regards the European Union’s civilian mission to Kosovo, the Republic of Cyprus has decided that it should not participate in it.[16]

 


[1] Commission of the European Communities, “Enlargement Strategies and Main Challenges 2007-2008”, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, COM (2007) 663 final, Brussels, 6 November 2007.

[2] Interviews with Cypriot civil servants conducted by Christina Ioannou in mid-January 2008.

[3] Interviews with Cypriot civil servants, conducted by Christina Ioannou and Giorgos Kentas, on two occasions, in mid-January 2008.

[4] This “Counter-declaration” (see note 15 below) was issued in response to Turkey’s “declaration” of 29 July 2005, to the effect that it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus!

[5] Ibid.

[6] Council of the European Union, “Press Release, General Affairs and External Relations”, 16326/07 (Presse 288), Provisional Version, Brussels, 10 December 2007.

[7] Council of the European Union, “Brussels European Council 14 December 2007: Presidency Conclusions”, 16616/07, Brussels, 14 December 2007.

[8] European Community, “EU Enlargement: Turkey- Declaration by European Community and Member States”, Brussels, 21 September 2007.

[9] Phileleftheros (Nicosia daily), 4 January 2008.

[10] Bulletin of the European Communities 16, no.11 (Brussels: General Secretariat, Commission of the European Communities, 1983), point 2.4.1, 68.

[11] Other Member States sharing Cyprus’s concerns include Greece, Romania and Spain.

[12] Presidency Conclusions, op.cit.

[13] Phileleftheros, 21 December 2007.

[14] “Cyprus will not recognize an independent Kosovo”, 31 January 2008, Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website, available at: www.mfa.gov.cy, last access: 04.03.2008.

[15] Ibid., 4 February 2008, emphasis added.

[16] Eleftherotypia (Athens daily), 5 January 2008.