OPINION

A bleak outlook for progress on Cyprus

There are many obstacles for Turkey to overcome as it heads toward European Union accession. Cyprus is just one of these problems. But this problem is not Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Cyprus, something which seems so long ago that it is rarely discussed at length in modern Cypriot politics anymore. What is really hurting Turkey on the Cyprus issue is Ankara’s obligation to implement an EU customs union protocol obliging it to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and aircraft. Essentially, this is a secondary issue which is referred to by Turkey for diplomatic reasons and by Cyprus for domestic consumption. However, everyone knows that Ankara will eventually be obliged to grant access to Cypriot planes and ships. The European Union remains an economic union and such deviations from the acquis communautaire are anything but desirable. So the most likely scenario is that Turkey will lift its restrictions on Cypriot-flagged craft by October along with a diplomatic pirouette stressing that such a move «does not constitute recognition of the Republic of Cyprus.» As long as Turkey feels that its course toward EU membership is not guaranteed, it is unlikely to make any meaningful concessions on the Cyprus issue. Those who believe that Ankara will recognize Cyprus and will not succeed in entering the EU are sadly mistaken, on both counts. Critics of Turkey and its politics overestimate two things: the significance of Cyprus’s accession to the European Union and the readiness of other EU partners to back Nicosia in its demands.