Turkey hopeful of ties with EU during Greek presidency

Turkey hopeful of ties with EU during Greek presidency

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey hopeful of ties with EU during Greek presidency

Greek Foreign Minister Venizelos (R) greets his Turkish counterpart Davutoğlu upon his arrival for a meeting in Athens. Two diplomats exchanged views on Turkish-EU relations, bilateral ties as well as Cyprus talks. AFP photo

The momentum provided in ties with the European Union thanks to the commencement of visa exemption talks and the opening of a chapter after three years could be further boosted during Greek and Italian term presidencies in 2014, the Turkish government believes, although it sees a slimmer chance for a breakthrough on Cyprus.

“We are hopeful about the Greek presidency. Greece has been supporting Turkish accession to the EU for a long time. We have already expressed our expectations to Greece for the opening of more chapters and for accelerating the negotiation process,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. The last meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers, Ahmet Davutoğlu and Evangelos Venizelos, took place on Dec. 12 in Athens where the two diplomats exchanged views on Turkish-EU relations, bilateral ties as well as Cypriot talks. 

Greece will assume the term presidency today for the first half of 2014 before being succeeded by Italy on July 1. Given that both Mediterranean countries are in favor of Turkey’s accession, Ankara sees a window of opportunity for further boosting the pace of negotiations in the new year. 

“The momentum gained in recent weeks should be continued with the opening of more chapters. We should avoid another period of stagnation in accession talks,” the official said. 

Turkey is pressing the EU for the removal of the Cypriot blockage on the opening of chapters 23, judiciary and fundamental rights, and chapter 24, justice, freedom and security, both of which are regarded as key chapters for the completion of the accession process. 

The Greek presidency has gained more importance as Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are close to launching a new round of reunification talks with the aim of ending the four-decade old division on the island. 

Greece and Turkey are both guarantor countries of Cyprus and play crucial roles as motherlands in peace talks. “Although the Cyprus problem stands as an important element in Turkey’s accession process, we believe we should make progress in the negotiation process regardless of developments about these talks,” the official said. 

Greek Cyprus is still dragging its feet in officially launching talks and introducing difficult pre-conditions. Turkey and Turkish Cypriots have shown sufficient flexibility in meeting these pre-conditions to be outlined in the joint statement, but Greek Cypriots have still hesitated to begin talks. 

“It seems they are not sincerely willing for talks. They are aware that once talks begin there will be no return. And if a prospected referendum is not approved in the south as happened in 2004, they know this second ‘no’ will surely have consequences to their disadvantage,” the same official said. 

High-level visits in early 2014

With the coming of 2014, Turkey-EU ties will witness an exchange of high-level visits that are expected to give more opportunities to accelerate the accession process. One of the most important visits will be carried out by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Brussels on Jan. 21, making his first trip to the EU capital since 2009. This will be followed by French President François Hollande’s visit to Turkey on Jan. 26, making him the first French leader to pay a state visit since 1992. Ankara expects that Hollande will announce the removal of a French veto on some chapters during the visit. 

President Abdullah Gül is also expected to go to Italy on Jan. 28, while there are also plans for Erdoğan to go to Germany in early February.