EU needs to present united front on principles and Cyprus recognition

Barring the unforeseen, a decision on December 17 to set a date for the beginning of accession talks between Turkey and the EU is an important turning point in the development of the European Union. It is certainly an historic moment for Turkey itself, which is triumphantly making official its reappearance on Europe’s political stage. This decision is opposed by the vast majority of the peoples of Europe, where the prevailing view is that Turkey cannot be incorporated into a federal Europe and that if accession eventually takes place, it will be to a loose confederation based essentially on the principles of a common market. Such a development, which would make the EU the economic wing of NATO’s European sector, might satisfy the USA and a few European countries, but not continental, «traditional» European forces (France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and perhaps Spain) which are looking to the completion of political unification (a federal union) in order to deal with their own economic, social and political challenges. Already in Europe, particularly in France, there is a debate about the prospects of a federal hard core of five countries within the broader framework of a loose European confederation. Such a development would be extremely unfavorable for Greece. It would be the ultimate irony if Turkey’s accession to a European grouping would set Greece outside Europe’s federal core. I stress this possibility, not because I feel it is inevitable, but to draw attention to the nature of Greece’s initiatives before and after December 17. Particular attention should be paid to the terms under which Turkey’s accession course is to be agreed upon. These terms should include: a) a commitment from Turkey to improving its relations with member states according to previous decisions by the summit and to fulfill the EU’s criteria, conditions and principles, as well as b) the effective monitoring of the implementation of these terms. This position is not and should not be interpreted as a demand, as the expression of the national interest of a single member state. It should be the position of all the members in order to protect the credibility of the EU as an institution. It would be a bad omen if, before negotiations even begin, member states were to be seen to back down on issues of principles and institutions. All member states should take the same immovable stand regarding the candidate country’s recognition of the Cypriot Republic. The EU cannot be subdivided, it is an indivisible entity consisting of 25 countries. A refusal by Turkey to recognize the Cypriot republic is tantamount to a refusal to recognize the EU itself. How can the EU accept such a humiliating illogicality? I am aware of the climate prevailing in European capitals and understand the difficulties. However, I believe that now, and not later, with self-confidence and without fear, we should made every effort to convince our partners to rally around the positions necessary to protect the institutions and the future of Europe. (1) Gerassimos Arsenis served as defense minister for PASOK (1993-6).