OPINION

Double defeat

Held ransom by its internal contradictions, Turkey suffered a double diplomatic loss at the EU summit in Copenhagen, being defeated on both the level of EU-Turkish relations and that of Cyprus’s EU membership. This was, perhaps, because on both fronts Ankara chose to adopt its well-known opportunistic, blackmail tactics. However, this time it was not faced with some neighboring country but with the European Union. Based on the precedent of having been granted EU candidate status without fulfilling the requisite requirements, Turkey tried to extract a date for membership talks to begin before May 2004. In order to achieve this it tried, on the one hand, to blackmail the Union by tying its demand to its stance on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan on Cyprus’s reunification and, on the other, by riding on the back of US support. The tactless interventions by American diplomats and by US President George W. Bush personally bore no fruit, but rather produced a negative effect. The EU deems that Ankara has to meet a set of political obligations first, and this was reflected in the summit decision. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi were the only leaders to fall behind America’s admonitions to support Turkish demands. Turkey’s defeat on the other front is even heavier. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and the hard core of the post-Kemal regime remain trapped in the idea that the Cyprus issue was resolved with the 1974 invasion and the declaration of the breakaway state in 1983. They failed to see that ever since Cyprus got on to the final stretch for EU membership, the settlement of the political dispute was catapulted onto the agenda. Ankara could have bypassed international pressure and the EU’s vital interest in a quick solution to the Cyprus problem had it not been for its ambition to join the European Union. But since membership is Ankara’s central foreign policy priority, Turkey will sooner or later have to negotiate for a settlement – and what is more, from an inferior bargaining position. As long as there was no political decision for Cyprus’s admittance, the Greek side feared that a possible rejection would jeopardize the island’s accession. Since the EU decision is positive and unconditional, that threat subsides. This fact gives the Greek-Cypriot elite more room to maneuver in working toward a more functional and viable solution than the one foreseen in the Annan plan.