Saturday, March 20, 2010

Turning a Vicious Cycle Into a Virtuous One

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule at a press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
AA Photo from Hurriyet Daily News

In his first trip to Turkey, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule re-stated the European Union's position on Cyprus, urging Turkey to implement the Additional Protocol of the EU Customs Union and so end the blockade of Turkish ports to Cyprus. Not surprisingly, Ankara re-stated its position that it will not do so until the EU ended its isolation of Northern Cyprus and that it will not recognize Cyprus until an agreement between the north and the south is reached. Fule re-affirmed his commitment to Turkish membership, and in an op/ed published in Today's Zaman before his visit, argued the importance of the EU honoring commitments to Turkey and maintaing its credibility.
I am aware of voices both in the EU and in Turkey who question this course of action. But I have no doubt that honoring our commitments is the right thing to do, so that our engagement remains credible. Credibility needs building with concrete actions on both sides. We will continue our cooperation program and support the ambitious reforms undertaken in Turkey. We need to continue working together on the negotiations, opening new chapters as well as making progress in the chapters that have already been opened. We need to overcome the deadlock over Cyprus. With the ongoing negotiations in Cyprus, there is a unique opportunity to find a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island. I will use all the instruments at my disposal to support a solution to this problem.

I am convinced that we can turn this around, from a vicious circle into a virtuous one, provided there is political will of all actors involved. I know it takes courage and determination to do so, but I believe neither is in short supply in Turkey.
There are plenty of reasons to hope that this can in fact happen despite the recent polarization in Turkish politics thanks to the Ergenekon investigation and the government's plans to push for judicial and other constitutional reforms over recalcitrant opposition. The government has recently passed a new EU action plan, and as I wrote last month (see Feb. 21 post), there is plenty of momentum going into ths year Cyprus aside. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has said Spain hopes to open new policy chapters on education, competitiveness, food safety, and should Cyprus prove agreeable, energy. Yet, as UN-sponsored Cyprus talks continue with no end in sight, Cyprus will remain the elephant in the room until some breakthrough is reached. (For more on Cyprus and the accession process, see Feb. 17 post.) See also EurActiv's analysis of Fule's visit.

In other EU-related news, an informal EU parliamentary group was launched last week. Friends of Turkey brings together 47 MEPs.
Among the group’s members are the spouse of Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, Anna Corazza-Bildt; Sandra Kalniete (Latvia); Jaroslaw Leszek Walesa (Poland); Birgit Schnieber-Jastram (Germany); Georg Bach from Luxemburg’s Christian Democrats; İsmail Ertuğ, Knut Fleckenstein, Jutta Steinruck and Peter Simon (Germany); Emine Bozkurt (the Netherlands); Richard Howitt and Claude Moraes (UK); Tanja Fajon (Slovenia); Ioan Enciu and Victor Bostinaru (Romania); Boguslaw Liberadzki (Poland); Said El-Khadraoui (Belgium); Baris Zala (Slovakia); Evgeni Kirilov (Bulgaria); Raimon Obiols (Spain); and Kader Arif from the French Socialists.

Metin Kazak (Bulgaria); Jelko Kacin and Ivo Vajgl (Slovenia); Graham Watson, Andrew Duff, Sarah Ludford and Michael Cashman (UK); Marietje Schaake and Sophie in’t Veld (the Netherlands); Michael Theurer and Alexandra Thain (Germany); Liisa Jaakonsaari and Anneli Jaatteenmaki from the Finnish Liberals; EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee co-chairperson Hélène Flautre, Catherine Greze and Karima Delli (France); Fransizka Keller and Jan Philipp Albrecht (Germany); Raul Romeva i Rueda (Spain); Indrek Tarand (Estonia); Heidi Hautala (Finland); Judith Sargentini from the Dutch Greens and Sajjad Karim from the Dutch European Conservatives and Reformists are also among the members of the group.

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