Old-style bargaining

The European Commission recommendation on Turkey yesterday launched a more intense phase in EU-Turkish negotiations. Cyprus and Turkey are leading the show while EU states are playing a mediating role with various degrees of interest and intervention. All sides, except for Nicosia and Ankara, are doing their best to stave off a crisis. What is happening is unprecedented in recent diplomatic history. For 30 years, since Turkey’s invasion and occupation of northern Cyprus, Turkey has snubbed the legitimate government in the south. Certainly Ankara has come under outside pressure, but overall its handling of the issue has been successful. Cyprus’s EU accession in 2004 changed that. Since then, Turkey’s EU ambitions have depended on Cypriot consent. The presence of Turkey’s troops on Cyprus, its military superiority and its strategic geographic position have failed to tilt the scales in its favor. The reason for this is that the EU operates according to a system of laws and principles that no one wishes to overturn even if abiding by them impinges on strategic or economic interests. It seems like the negotiations have hit an impasse. But in practice the Commission recommended a partial suspension of talks, covering eight so-called chapters, without setting any specific deadline. A new round of bargaining has emerged that must be completed by December 11 or, at the latest, by the next Council meeting a few days later. The intervening period will be marked by tension while commentators will analyze the consequences of the deadlock. During this time of confusion, we should keep in mind that the Turkish establishment and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos are in fact engaging in nothing but good old bargaining – an art that is gradually being forgotten.

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