NEWS

Greek joy over terms for Turkey

Athens declared itself «very satisfied» yesterday with the European Union progress reports which set the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on the road to membership and set out some tough guidelines for Turkey to follow in its own accession process. Turkey was awarded the status of «functioning market economy» by the EU yesterday, but of greater concern to Greece were the improvements Brussels said Ankara has to make in its relations with Athens and Nicosia if it wants to become a member of the Union. Key among these was a referral in the report on Turkey regarding its refusal to repeal the threat of war (casus belli) over its territorial waters dispute with Greece in the Aegean Sea. The document calls for Ankara to move ahead with its promises to repeal the threat. «The matters concerning Greece and Cyprus have been covered in a very satisfying manner,» said Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos. «For the first time, there is a special mention in an official EU document about the issue of casus belli.» Turkey is also called on to maintain good neighborly relations and to refrain from any act that could have a negative impact on the peaceful resolution of any differences. The report calls on Ankara to protect the rights of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul and to allow the Halki Seminary to reopen. A US State Department report on religious freedom which was made public late on Tuesday also highlights the plight of the Patriarchate and the Turkish government’s refusal to recognize Patriarch Vartholomaios’s ecumenical status. In the EU report, Ankara was also reminded of its obligation to fully recognize all EU member states – a clear reference to its failure to recognize Nicosia. Pressure mounted on Turkey to open up its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and airplanes, which it signed on to when extending it customs union to include the 10 newest EU member states earlier this year. «The EU kept its word by opening the accession negotiations once Turkey had met the conditions,» said EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn as he presented the progress report. «Now it is up to Turkey to keep its word… which is to ratify and fully implement the additional protocol of the Ankara agreement, which implies the opening of Turkish ports to Cypriot vessels.» «There are still major problems to be tackled,» added Rehn. «Turkey’s full compliance will, in 2006, be under constant observation by the EU,» the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Athens also expressed its satisfaction with the EU’s decision to make FYROM a candidate for membership of the Union, while underlining that Skopje must work to find a «mutually acceptable» solution to its name dispute with Athens. «This has always been the Greek position,» said the Foreign Ministry. Asked whether the dispute would have to be settled before FYROM could join the EU, Rehn said it was a bilateral issue that had to be resolved through immediate dialogue under UN auspices.