Turkey boycott of Cyprus will harm EU ambitions
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012
Turkey's decision to give the presidency of the European Union the cold shoulder while its nemesis Cyprus is in charge will do nothing to improve EU-Turkish ties and its troubled membership bid.
Ankara decided last year to boycott the EU presidency when Cyprus takes over from Denmark on July 1, due to a decades-old dispute over the Mediterranean island split between the Turkish north and the internationally-recognized south.
"They don't even want to talk to us," Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis told AFP, adding there was a "total impasse."
Turkey opened EU membership negotiations in 2005, but the talks stalled in June 2010.
Only one of 35 policy "chapters" that all EU aspirants must negotiate to join the bloc has been closed.
A further 18 chapters are blocked in large part because Turkey, which has occupied the northeast of the island since 1974, has refused to recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
"We see Turkey's EU accession hopes fade further by the day," said Jean-Dominique Giuliani, president of the Robert Schuman Foundation think tank.
Germany and France have opposed Turkey's bid to join the 27-nation bloc, favoring instead a "privileged partnership" between the two sides.
While Paris has a softer tone towards Ankara under Socialist President Francois Hollande, who was elected last month, the new French leader has skirted the questions of whether he supports or opposes Turkey's bid. He simply has said that Ankara would not join the EU during his five-year term.
Turkish leaders have complained for two years about the hostility to their country's candidacy within the EU.
For its part, Brussels has voiced concerns about some radical steps taken by the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including the growing number of arrests of lawmakers, intellectuals and journalists.
Turkey's decision to boycott the Cypriot presidency of the EU, despite a December appeal by EU leaders for Ankara to respect Nicosia's chairmanship, has done little to improve relations.