Playing for time

The Turkish government has repeatedly said that it has no intention of recognizing the Republic of Cyprus. Ankara’s stance is obviously in line with Turkey’s overall strategy in view of the December 17 summit, when the Dutch administration, currently in charge of the European Union’s rotating presidency, will issue a statement on Turkey’s EU membership prospects. Turkey will make no concession whatsoever before it has ensured a strategic gain – the much-discussed date for the beginning of accession talks with the bloc. On the other hand, Turkey’s insistence on snubbing Cyprus cannot go on for much longer. Ankara is playing for time. Should, however, Ankara get the much-desired EU date, it will sooner or later find itself on the same level as its EU peers, meaning that it will have to comply with the political terms and principles of the acquis communautaire. In effect, Turkey will have to recognize the Republic of Cyprus as a legitimate and equal partner in any future negotiations. This is a logical conclusion and not one that derives from the political and institutional codes of the Union. The same conclusion can be drawn from the political statements and assessments made by foreign diplomats. In an interview with a Turkish television channel yesterday, Britain’s special envoy for Cyprus, Sir David Hannay, said that Turkish recognition of Cyprus is inevitable. The British diplomat, one of the architects of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s reunification plan for Cyprus, has never been a friend of Greece, as it were. His statements therefore carry much political weight. In a similar spirit, the Foreign Office suggested that Turkey’s insistence was strange. Of course, it is far from certain that the Europeans will yield to Ankara’s whims and grant our eastern neighbor special bargaining privileges that contravene the acquis communautaire. Turkey wants to negotiate its equal membership in a community of 25 members while at the same time refusing to politically recognize one of those members. Turkey’s foot-dragging is understandable but the strategy has already been pushed to its limits. Having said this, Greece and Cyprus must follow their own strategy prudently and always with the acquis communautaire in mind. In the present circumstances, this will amount to an effective foreign policy, even if they do not resort to their right of veto.