OPINION

Setting conditions

The burgeoning Turkish provocation over the Aegean Sea has irked the Greek public and cultivated a climate of insecurity. The leadership in Ankara, encouraged by the European Commission’s go-ahead for the start of European Union talks with Turkey (a decision that failed to take Greek and Greek-Cypriot concerns into account), is trying to tailor the entire accession process to its own needs and objectives. Thanks to the recommendations of EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen and the EU’s executive arm, European governments no longer consider Turkey’s 30-year occupation of northern Cyprus or its refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus as obstacles to its membership in the 25-member bloc. Driven by the belief that the Cyprus issue has reached a point where it serves Turkish national interests, a newly confident Ankara has begun to shift the focus of its military and political activity to the Aegean Sea. To be sure, Turkey does not want to trigger any major crises. But it does wish to bring to the fore all of its claims in the Aegean before a decision on membership negotiations is announced. Taking for granted an EU nod on December 17, the Turkish political elite will be in a position to claim that since its repeated challenges of the legal status of the Aegean were not any roadblock to negotiations, they subsequently do not run against the Copenhagen criteria. As a result, Greek-Turkish disputes and the Cyprus issue cannot be set as conditions during the accession negotiations. A political decision on this has already been reached, Ankara will say. Greece and Cyprus still have time to take measures against such threats. The provocative stance of Ankara’s political and military establishment dictates the inclusion of explicit obligations and commitments by our eastern neighbor in the decision of the pending EU summit. These conditions must commit Ankara to withdraw its casus belli against Athens on the issue of territorial waters, to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, and to remove its occupation troops from Cyprus before the completion of EU entry negotiations. A green light for joining the Union must depend on Ankara’s fulfillment of these conditions. Any unconditional go-ahead to membership negotiations would be interpreted by Ankara as an indirect albeit clear reward for its provocation and unilateral claims in Greece and Cyprus.