Clouds over accession

Ankara is pressing the European Union to set a date for the beginning of membership talks, and its cause is being backed by Greece’s Foreign Minister George Papandreou on the grounds that it is in Greece’s interests to promote positive EU-Turkish relations. It has not been made public whether Ankara has agreed to offer a trade-off for Athens’s stance on the issue. However, the government of Prime Minister Costas Simitis seems to think that this line will have some positive effect on the Cyprus issue. Athens and Nicosia have been concerned over the last few days by the fact that Brussels and some key EU countries are becoming increasingly skeptical of the prospect of Cyprus’s accession without a prior solution to the political dispute. Backstage talk seems to suggest that Cyprus’s membership should be postponed. The main argument for this is that, in view of the November 3 parliamentary elections in Turkey, an EU decision, at the next extraordinary European Council meeting on October 30, to accept Cyprus in the next wave of enlargement, would create problems. Everything seems to suggest that our EU peers have taken seriously Ankara’s threats of a «dynamic» and «unlimited» reaction should Cyprus become an EU member before a settlement has been reached. Last week, Ankara and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash confirmed that Turkey has prepared a plan which foresees the annexation of the occupied territory of northern Cyprus. Turkey’s outgoing army chief Huseyin Kivrikoglu said that Cyprus’s accession without a prior political settlement will be «a source of continuous crises» with the EU and would threaten security in the region. According to the Turkish press, Ankara and Washington are in line as far as these issues are concerned. The Financial Times seems to hold the same view on this issue. An FT editorial last week said that granting the island EU membership without first finding a solution would trigger instability in the region, while the Daily Telegraph pointed out that such a development could even lead to armed conflict. Similar signals have come from other directions. The newly appointed German ambassador to Nicosia, Jochen Trebesch, said that the only opportunity for a negotiated settlement will have to be used before any EU decisions on enlargement are made, adding that as a member state, Cyprus should speak with a single voice. At the same time, the new US ambassador to Nicosia, Michael Klosson, said that he was «committed to making every effort to promote a bizonal, bicommunal settlement,» also stressing that «tough choices must be made and time is not unlimited.» The Cyprus issue has entered a difficult phase. It seems we are witnessing what Simitis himself predicted last May, when he told journalists, «Some may well try to block this course (toward EU membership) on the grounds of the supposed need to find a solution to the Cyprus problem before the accession takes place.» Simitis also said at the time that the Helsinki decision made accession independent of any political settlement. As usual, the premier avoided referring to a controversial sentence included in the document which states that the Council’s decision on accession «will take account of all relevant factors,» a note which has recently gained in importance. What is generally said to be wrong is wrong, while: «It is widely said that future historians will count the GDR (former East Germany) among the most active supporters of terrorism. I and my work have swept up in these accusations, the harshest of which come from America,» he went on, adding accusingly: «They seem to forget their own long history of supporting brutal dictators and attacking legitimate governments, overtly and covertly – from overthrowing Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz Guzman in Guatemala, and Allende in Chile to supporting the Somoza family dictatorship in Nicaragua and too many others like them in many parts of the globe.» There seems always to be a considerable gap between what is officially recognized as good and what is in actual fact countenanced.