14 June, 2006
The European Union late Monday issued a strong warning to Turkey using a particularly harsh wording regarding the issue of Cyprus’ recognition, as Ankara persisted, however, in its intransigent stance.
This is the main conclusion arising from the statements made by Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, who currently chairs the EU General Affairs Council, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul during their joint press conference in Luxembourg shortly after the EU-Turkey Association Council meeting on Monday.
On behalf of the European side, it was made clear that Turkey must meet "as soon as possible" the obligations it has undertaken within the framework of its Customs Union with the EU, which entails recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and normalization of its relations with Nicosia.
The fact that so many diplomatic efforts and compromise had been necessary to reach an agreement at the meeting on the temporary closing of the first and easiest chapter of the 35 accession negotiations’ chapters should be considered by Turkey as a "warning light", underlined Plassnik, while the Finn Commissioner mentioned that if Turkey does not meet its obligations toward Cyprus quickly then most likely its EU accession process will become the victim of a "train crash".
At the same time, the two European Union officials expressed discreet discontent over the slow pace of the overall democratization process in Turkey, referring to freedom of expression, respect of the rights of religious minorities and the situation in the regions populated by Kurds.
On the Turkish side, the positions put forward in response to the European Union's criticism only served to highlight the existing gap in viewpoints between Ankara and Brussels. Regarding Cyprus, Gul not only criticized the EU for accepting Cyprus as a member in 2004, but went so far as to demand that the EU to "recognize the reality in Cyprus" and avoid making Turkey’s EU accession "a hostage of the Cyprus issue". Gul reiterated the firm Turkish arguments, and with respect to the opening of the Turkish ports to Cyprus-flagged ships he claimed "conflicting legal viewpoints" between Brussels and Ankara.
Source: Athens News Agency