What if Turkey surprises Merkel and Hollande with a Cyprus move?
There is no reason what so ever for German Prime Minister Angela Merkel to change her stance on Turkey’s entry to the EU, a Turkish official familiar with Germany told me.
“By lifting its veto in just one chapter and not the rest, France has shown us that it does not think differently than Germany,” another one told me.
The feeling among those familiar with the EU process is that not much is to be expected from Europe as the Franco–German front against Turkey will continue to sit tight.
How about the Cypriot front? After all, the Cyprus issue is technically the main reason why accession negotiations came to a halt as talks on eight chapters have been blocked due to Turkey’s decision not to let Greek ships use Turkish ports.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who made a genuine effort to solve the Cyprus issue that led to the UN-brokered Annan plan, was extremely disappointed by the EU’s stance after the plan was rejected by Greek Cypriots in the 2004 referendum. How can he not? Greek Cypriots were “rewarded” by becoming an EU member while Turkish Cypriots continued to suffer under isolation.
Infuriated by the fact that his overtures on Cyprus were not reciprocated, Erdoğan did not sign the Ankara protocol (which would open Turkish ports to Greek ships) and remained unmoved when the EU decided to block talks regarding eight chapters in 2006 due to his stance. The EU’s decision at that time did not have an immediate effect on accession talks since there were nearly two dozen chapters waiting to be opened.
Today, there is a leader at the head of the Greek Cypriot administration that can reciprocate Turkey’s gestures. It is clear that Europeans won’t encourage Greek Cypriots for a solution. On the contrary, the absence of a solution suits their interest since it is slowing down Turkey’s entry talks. It will therefore be totally shocking and (though they can’t admit it officially) annoying for Europeans if Erdoğan were to take the unilateral decision to sign the Ankara protocol.
It is worth nothing that when the question was put forward during the press conference with Merkel, Erdoğan, who can be very sharp and open about expressing his position, did not use rhetoric that categorically dismissed the signing of the Ankara protocol. He said Turkey had previously taken some steps that were not reciprocated. He also said that if there is an understanding on the island for a permanent peace, Turkey will give all the necessary support. He added Greece should also help find a solution, a message he will certainly repeat to his Greek counterpart, who will come to Turkey next week.
Turkey cannot revitalize accession talks by calling on the Europeans to make up their minds. Europeans will never say “game over.” The current situation is perfect as they have the best business ties with Turkey while keeping its accession bid in limbo. Turkey needs to take matters into its own hands and come up with an initiative that will give a great push to Cyprus and the EU process.
This won’t be seen as a concession since it is by now apparent that Turkey does not desperately need the EU but that it is interested in a win-win situation in the region. Even if Turkey does not make such a unilateral act, I will not be surprised at all to see intense diplomatic negotiations between Turkey, Greece and the island by summer time.