OPINION

Europe a la carte?

The course for Turkey to start accession talks with the European Union now lies open, but Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen refuses to include any conditions about Cyprus in the EC’s report, sticking to his original line that Turkey’s recognition of southern Cyprus «is not a prerequisite» for starting negotiations. The commissioner has been obliged to change tack. The Turks, however, have not only refused to recognize Cyprus but have also refused to sign any customs union agreement with it, in contravention of EU legislation; they merely referred to Cyprus in a presidential decree, a ruse they hope will maintain appearances. Meanwhile, they are forbidding Cypriot civilian aircraft from crossing into Turkish air space and Cypriot commercial vessels from docking at Turkish ports. And they are doing all this while awaiting talks with the EU to begin in December, a development that presupposes a «yes» from Cyprus as an EU member state. Cyprus does not want to block Turkey’s accession to the EU but it is simply not possible to discuss the launch of talks when Turkey has not recognized one of the bloc’s member states. If it has not done so by December, Cyprus will be obliged to seriously consider exercising its veto. Evidently, Turkey wants Europe «a la carte» – with all the benefits but none of the obligations. And the cautious stance of Verheugen and others is allowing it to maintain such a stance…