OPINION

Deadlock and prospects

The attempt by the European Union’s Finnish presidency to «square the circle» regarding the unhindered continuation of negotiations between the European Union and Turkey along with Ankara’s refusal to fulfill its obligations to Cyprus never really had any serious chances of success. None of the parties involved was prepared to accept the proposal as it dealt with the essence of the Cyprus problem. And so the public admission by Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja that the deadlock remained unbroken was no surprise. But even if the Finnish proposal is a total failure, this does not mean the region will slide into any massive crisis. The eventuality of Turkey’s accession negotiations being halted is out of the question. Suspending the talks is theoretically possible and would serve the domestic needs of several major European countries. But it is certain that Britain and other EU member states would oppose such a development. After all, restarting talks with Turkey would call for unanimity, which would be impossible to secure due to negative public sentiment. Such a suspension would signal a conclusive halt to the talks, and no European government would be prepared to derail Turkey from its EU course. This does not mean Ankara’s accession process will advance smoothly. The likeliest scenario is that Cyprus will block the launch of the debate on new chapters if Ankara fails to extend its customs agreement to Cyprus. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Aegean, the reactions have been predictable: persistent intractability and the promotion of Turkey’s special qualities. The paradox is that, while a special partnership would fulfill most of Ankara’s needs while relieving the EU of the stress of admitting a large, Muslim country, few EU governments are proposing it as an alternative.