OPINION

European solution

Once again, diplomatic efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue have come to a head. So it was back in December 2002, ahead of the Copenhagen summit which was to decide on EU enlargement and, again, two months later in The Hague, shortly before the accession treaties of the EU candidate countries were signed. In both cases, the Turkish side was paralyzed by inner contradictions and torpedoed the talks by refusing to negotiate on the basis of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint. Things are slightly different this time. Because of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s stance, Ankara received part of the blame for the failure of the talks, a fact which undermined Turkish hopes of getting an EU date for membership talks in December. Having realized this, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressured the military and Denktash to change course. Erdogan has – with assistance from Washington – tried to avoid being blamed for the looming deadlock in the Cyprus talks. In that way, he hopes to disarm those European politicians who intend to use Cyprus as a pretext to avoid giving Ankara a date. The New York agreement got a Cyprus settlement under way. The first phase, the bicommunal talks in Nicosia, bore no fruit. The second phase, the so-called «four-way talks» (to stretch a point), essentially starts now. Early signs are hardly cheerful, mainly because the Turkish side is hardening its stance. Among other things, Turkey has demanded several exemptions from the acquis communautaire – not on special cases like Greece’s Mount Athos, but on crucial aspects of the proposed solution. In other words, Ankara and the Turkish-Cypriot leadership want Europe to recognize that the European law will not apply to Cyprus. Needless to say, this is out of the question. In fact, it should not even be put on the table. This does not just concern Nicosia and Athens but the EU as well. Brussels cannot possibly make concessions on principles that uphold the Union as a whole. Creating such a fait accompli would undermine the entire integration project. This is no skin off the US’s nose, of course – quite the contrary. The Europeans, for their part, have every interest in safeguarding the legal order and making sure that Cyprus will not turn into a new hot spot. In about a month, the island will be a proper EU member. This will render the Cyprus dispute a European problem, a fact that forces the Commission and the European Council to play a much more active role in the process. In that sense, we should welcome the summit decision yesterday on the participation of the responsible commissioner in the Buergenstock negotiations.