One sole condition was enough

Keeping one’s cards close to one’s chest is not always the best tactic. With regard to Nicosia’s stance in view of the EU summit, it is the wrong tactic. As the US is exerting pressure in all directions so that Ankara is given the green light for EU accession talks and as Athens has to a great extent committed itself to lending unconditional support to Turkey’s candidacy, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos is fighting diplomatic battles to have a proviso included in the European Council’s summit conclusions that Turkey should recognize the Cyprus Republic before accession talks begin. However, the recognition issue should already have been put on the agenda. The current situation is an institutional paradox made possible only because of political hypocrisy of the European Commission and our EU partners. It is clearly paradoxical that a candidate member asking to enter the accession process does not recognize one of the member states, particularly since Turkey’s application depends entirely on Nicosia’s vote. This is a blot on Europe itself, but that is a minor issue, as is, apparently, respect for the Union’s founding treaties. Turkey’s negative stance violates not only the Copenhagen criteria, but article 10 of the Founding Charter. By vetoing the Cypriot republic’s entry into international organizations, Ankara is violating the Maastricht Treaty (article 1, paragraph 2). Recognition is extremely important from the political point of view. If it is given, Ankara’s standard policy on the Cyprus issue would be overturned. The pseudo-state (in the Turkish-occupied north of the island) would effectively be buried and Turkey would be forced to assume the role of an occupation force in the northern sector of the island republic. Precisely due to the political aspect of the issue, Ankara will exhaust all other possibilities before recognizing Cyprus, which it will only do if its future in Europe is under immediate threat. Since it will not be able to resist for very long, it will adopt evasive tactics, hoping for support not only from the US but from within the EU. According to diplomatic sources, it is very likely that Ankara will try to recognize only the southern part of the island as the Republic of Cyprus, retaining diplomatic relations with the pseudo-state. Such an effort naturally has no legal foundation, since Cyprus’s treaty of accession to the EU is very clear and leaves no room for misinterpretation. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to underestimate issues of political expediency. The persistence with which the Americans and many Europeans are setting up direct flights to northern Cyprus and opening direct trade relations with the occupied territory is not unrelated to this scenario. Their goal is to upgrade the Turkish-occupied state and to deal with it as an autonomous entity within the Cyprus Republic, with which the EU will establish relations outside those with the legitimate Cypriot government. Nicosia has left open the question of whether it will exercise its veto in order to achieve its aim of having a condition included in the summit conclusions that requires Turkey to recognize the republic before accession can begin (and not to obtain recognition before December 17). This demand has met with some sympathy within the EU, but some governments are trying to link the Cypriot demand with Nicosia’s acceptance of direct trade relations between EU and the occupied territory. The situation is still nebulous, given the Dutch presidency’s unwillingness to lay its cards on the table so as to avoid a generalization of the internal debate that would lay open all the reservations and different viewpoints among member states regarding Turkey’s accession. Ankara would not have been able to persist with its intransigence had Nicosia made it publicly clear that its condition for giving Turkey the green light be the prior recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and everything that entails. In this way, the ball would have been in Turkey’s court, without Papadopoulos having had to make maximalist demands. Cyprus set this condition along with others (such as the withdrawal of occupation troops), which do not constitute clear and inviolable terms. Given the correlation of forces and prevailing climate, it was a mistake to set so many conditions; the only condition should have been prior recognition. Cyprus should be aware of the limits set by its small size, but should not restrict its negotiating power within Europe. Having said that, the dictates of realism should have made the Cypriot leadership realize that a lack of clarity works in favor of the major and not the minor players. Keeping one’s cards close to one’s chest is not always an advantage in negotiations. In this case, it lays one open to pressure and blackmail.