Another plan fails

Attempts to settle the Cyprus issue have once again failed, and this is something which only Ankara and the Turkish-Cypriot leader can be blamed for. The painful concessions made by the Greek Cypriots were not enough to break the deadlock. The pressure from new Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as reflected in his initial statements, was also of no avail. The military bureaucracy eventually imposed its policy and torpedoed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s initiative. Ever since last autumn, when the secretary-general presented the original version of his blueprint, Athens and Nicosia have welcomed the UN proposals even though they were clearly unfair and problematic. Even the most skeptical will have no room to object to the EU accession of the southern part of the island when the issue is debated in the European Parliament. Should no other snag hinder the EU’s expansion in general, the accession treaty will be signed on April 16. We need not worry about the possibility of some member state’s parliament blocking Cyprus’s EU membership, as all national assemblies will vote on the entire enlargement package, and not on each separate candidate. The Turkish denial has placed the Greek Cypriots in an advantageous position. Diplomatic mobility will ease for a while, but negotiations will again gain momentum at the beginning of 2004. The EU wants to be done with this long-running issue and this is why it has set a solution as a precondition for the strengthening of EU-Turkish ties. The EU’s enlargement commissioner was clear on that issue yesterday. Ankara will have to change course, unless it decides to abandon its European aspirations. The prospect of such a U-turn is, however, extremely remote. As a result, when the Turkish side realizes the nature of the dilemma, it will most likely attempt to trade a positive stance on Cyprus for a European nod to its ambitions. At that point, the Greek-Cypriot side will have more leverage so as to not only extract a more favorable agreement but also to push for a settlement that will be closer to European standards – meaning a functional solution that is compatible with the acquis communautaire. This will be made easier after Erdogan has imposed his own policy line and Denktash has been replaced.

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