Greek Cypriots block EU talks on 3 more chapters

With the latest Greek Cypriot blockage, talks on a total of 16 chapters have now been blocked.

Greek Cypriots block EU talks on 3 more chapters
Greek Cyprus has raised objections to opening accession talks on one of the 35 negotiating chapters, posing fresh obstacles to Turkey's already troubled bid to join the European Union, sources have said.

In recent meetings with other EU representatives, the Greek Cypriots opposed opening accession talks on the judiciary and fundamental rights chapter. But since the EU has previously linked opening of talks on two other chapters, namely the education and culture and information society and media to fulfillment of criteria set out in the judiciary and fundamental rights chapter, the Greek Cypriot veto effectively means talks will not be opened on three chapters.

The Greek Cypriot officials say they will object to opening accession talks with Turkey on judiciary and fundamental rights unless the 27-nation bloc agrees to add a new condition stipulating that Turkey is responsible for problems related to human rights and freedoms in all areas effectively held under Turkish control, a reference to Turkish Cyprus where Turkey maintains more than 35,000 troops.

Ankara recognizes a Turkish Cypriot state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), but the northern Cypriot state is not recognized internationally. Turkey sent troops to the island in 1974 after Greek Cypriots tried to unite the island with Greece following a coup. KKTC President Mehmet Ali Talat recently ruled out prospects for withdrawal of the Turkish troops, saying the Turkish Cypriots do not feel secure.

Turkey opened accession talks with the EU in 2005 but progress has since been very slow. In 2006 the EU suspended accession talks with Ankara on eight chapters because of Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus. Ankara says it is ready to open the ports and airports in return for EU steps to ease trade restrictions on the Turkish Cypriots. The EU Commission proposed direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots in 2004 after they voted for a UN plan to reunite the island but the proposal, vetoed by the Greek Cypriots, have never been approved.

With the latest Greek Cypriot blockage, talks on a total of 16 chapters have now been blocked. In addition to the eight chapters blocked by the EU, France refuses to allow opening accession talks on five other chapters that it sees related directly to accession. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a vocal opponent of Turkey's membership in the EU, saying it does not belong in Europe. French diplomats are working hard to delete the word "accession" from every EU document, drawing ire from Ankara.

Turkey angry

Ankara has told EU authorities that it would not accept any EU document that endorses the latest Greek Cypriot demands. Ankara says endorsing the Greek Cypriot arguments would amount to saying that Turkey had "invaded" northern Cyprus. Ankara has recently warned the EU against watering down its membership commitments and, in a reference to Greek Cypriot attempts to force Turkey to make concessions on the Cyprus issue, some members' efforts to use Turkey's membership process to press for their national causes.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Haziran 2008, 14:44