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Media Watch 2005

05 April 2005
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Myria Antoniadou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 7 April 2005.
Commission raps Ankara over protocol
"THE European Commission has made it abundantly clear to Turkey that it cannot annex a statement that it does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus to the protocol extending the Ankara Agreement (customs union) to all 25 member states. It has given assurances to the Cyprus government to this effect, sources told the Cyprus Mail... Ankara is refusing to allow Cypriot ships to dock at its ports and the use of airports by Cypriot airplanes"

THE European Commission has made it abundantly clear to Turkey that it cannot annex a statement that it does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus to the protocol extending the Ankara Agreement (customs union) to all 25 member states. It has given assurances to the Cyprus government to this effect, sources told the Cyprus Mail.

As a consequence, it is expected that Turkey will issue a bilateral statement to this effect, which is not legally binding and expresses no one other than Ankara, as it did when it signed the European Constitution in Rome last year.

However, the EU’s executive has not managed to convince the Turkish government to implement the Protocol and not wait until its ratification by the country’s parliament.
Without ratification, the agreement cannot be implemented, even if Prime Minister Erdogan signs the Protocol, a move expected in September, only a few weeks before Turkey begins accession negotiations on October 3.

Diplomatic sources did not rule out the possibility of some big member states proposing to overcome this problem by recommending a “vague time-frame” by which the Protocol would have to be ratified, some time in 2006.

The majority of member states do not want to open a public discussion on Turkey’s behaviour and its EU accession course, concerned it may have a negative effect on the Constitution referendum to take place in France, in May. If Europe’s first Constitution does not go through even in one country then the planning on how the enlarged Union will operate will fall through.

The question raised by some in Brussels is how Nicosia would react to a vague time frame.

It would be politically difficult for Cyprus to veto Turkey’s accession talks as it cannot even rely on Greece, which has its hands full with other problems within the EU, they note.

Diplomats believe Turkey will sign the Protocol in September, but express doubt as to whether it can ever go through Parliament. Anything which may constitute recognition of Cyprus is rejected in Turkey and could even overthrow the government, they stress.

Nicosia and Athens are now focusing on including the Protocol, the use of Turkish ports by Cyprus-flagged ships, respect of minorities and other issues of national interest in the member states common position at the EU-Turkey Association Council, taking place on April 26.

Ankara is refusing to allow Cypriot ships to dock at its ports and the use of airports by Cypriot airplanes, maintaining it has no such obligation under the Ankara Agreement as these are services and not goods.

Sources said the Commission believes that technically this may be true but Turkey’s obligation stems from the Customs Union, a previous Association Council and a decision by the Court of Justice. The Court’s ruling stipulates that the transport of goods within the EU should be done in the most cost effective way and there should be no barriers to trade.

The EU’s executives as well as the Luxembourg presidency, appear to be backing the Cyprus government’s position on this issue, especially with regard to the opening of Turkish ports."