Walking in Erdogan’s shoes

Nearly a year after the EU’s green light to Ankara for the start of accession talks, Turkey has made little progress in meeting Brussels’ demands. In a bid to avert the collapse of EU talks – and despite Ankara’s refusal to implement the customs union with Cyprus – the Erdogan government is pushing last-ditch legislative reforms. The maneuver was made at Washington’s recommendation as the US would like to postpone the protocol’s implementation for a year. The European Commission helped Ankara by postponing its progress report for 15 days. But that does not mean it will tolerate non-compliance. The EU has set a December deadline rendering implementation a condition for the continuation of talks. Prompted by US and British support, Ankara tried to bargain with its fulfillment of a conventional obligation. The proposal was that it would sign the document if Turkish Cypriots could trade with the EU without the control of Cypriot authorities. That, of course, would equal a recognition of the breakaway state. When the maneuver failed, Britain used diplomatic tricks to exempt Turkey of its commitments. Also, it tried to extract a one-year postponement. Nicosia’s stand is clear. It backs Ankara’s EU ambitions provided that it will meet its conventional obligations. Athens must keep a similar stand. It is not in Greece’s interest to adopt Turkey’s EU goal – especially if Turkey itself has second thoughts about it. Greek diplomats are effectively walking in Erdogan’s shoes, making his problems their problem. If Ankara fails to apply the protocol it will have to suffer the consequences. Invoking EU agreements, Cyprus will freeze negotiations. After all, talks can resume after Turkey has implemented the pact. Things are not that complicated, provided we leave our unfounded fears and foreign policy complexes behind.