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BARÇIN YİNANÇ

barcin.yinanc@hurriyet.com.tr

BARÇIN YİNANÇ > Will Greek Cyprus attempt a crisis to veil its failure?

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“The final countdown to July 1 has started. It started two weeks ago [when] we [began to] work on Sundays and [now] don’t sleep more than four hours a day,” said Greek Cyprus’ EU ambassador.

It is the first time Greek Cyprus will assume the European Union presidency and in order to prove they are not a “half state” as Turkish state figures have called them, Greek Cypriots seem determined to try to punch above their weight. They have scheduled three times as many technical meetings and foreign ministerial gatherings.

Turkish officials only wish for Greek Cypriots to be successful in their endeavors. They might even pray for it since a situation of the contrary entails a worst case scenario for Turkish diplomats, as some believe that in case of failure Greek Cyprus might attempt to create an artificial crisis to veil its incompetence. An attempt for a gas drilling in the Turkish Cypriot continental shelf is enough to heat the waters in the Mediterranean and strain relations in the Ankara–Brussels line.

Otherwise, this summer period will be one of the least animated periods in Turkish–EU relations, as Turkey will suspend any dialogue which will involve talking to the EU presidency.

However, this does not need to be the dullest period. There is a slight possibility that a summer breeze coming from Paris might move the leaves in the tree.

Paris to mull a strategic leap forward

There are two issues where a green light, mainly from Paris, might come to psychological resuscitate a deadly season for Turkish–EU relations. France’s new president François Hollande can reverse the decision of its predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy who blocked accession talks on five chapters arguing it would bring Turkey closer to membership. The economic and monetary policy does not require any opening criteria, which means that there is not much preparations needed if there is a general agreement to start accession talks on that chapter before July 1st. This certainly will not have an immediate earthshaking consequence on a Turkish bid to join the EU. It will, however, certainly be a very important symbolic gesture, as France will give the message that Paris is no longer against a Turkish membership provided it fulfils the necessary criteria.

Signs coming from Paris suggest that the foreign ministry favors such a move. In contrast to the portrayal of Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as a euro and Turko sceptic, he is said to endorse the view of the diplomats and is expected to advise Hollande on that direction.

Another issue which will mimic CPR is the visa liberalization. The commission waits for the political go ahead to secure the mandate to negotiate with Turkey visa liberalization. The decision had been postponed due to the parliamentary elections in France. The interior ministry, which traditionally does not have liberal tendencies when it comes to free movement, might not be willing to take an active stance on the issue.

At any rate following the second round of elections next Sunday, eyes will turn to Hollande. He will have to decide his next move within a few days, and yet Hollande is not known to act in haste.

Still, if he were to make a quick decision on one of these two issues, this will come as a major strategic leap forward to close the “Sarkozy” gap in relations with Ankara.

June/12/2012

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