With his typically sharp tongue, the Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış snapped at the Greek Cypriot diplomat who questioned how Turkey expected to ask them to lift the veto on membership negotiation chapters while denying their ships from Turkish ports.
“We can open the ports tomorrow as was the case before 1997,” Bağış said. “At the same time, the EU Commission should lift the isolation on Turkish Cypriots as it promised April 26, 2004.” He was referring to the EU Council decision right after the referendum on both parts of the divided island on the Annan Plan for reunification as a goodwill gesture to Turkish Cypriots who had approved the plan while Greeks did not.
Minutes ago, at a think-tank conference organized by the Danish government and Istanbul’s Kültür University, Bağış was quoting (not Danish Prince Hamlet but) Brabantio of William Shakespeare’s “Othello” to highlight the background of Turkish involvement on the Cyprus issue.
The quote was “So let the Turk of Cyprus us beguile; / We lose it not, so long as we can smile.” It was only the late Bülent Ecevit, the prime minister who called for Turkish military intervention in 1974, who had made this attribution some years ago while referring to the Cyprus problem.
“We cannot leave Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots for the EU, as we cannot abandon Turkey’s EU target for Cyprus,” Bağış said. He also said an EU member Turkey would be the “cheapest insurance policy” for Greek Cypriots. And to show how determined Turkey was not to recognize Greek Cypriot government as the term president of the EU in the second half of 2012, he said if the Greek Cypriots would offer the opening of some chapters (he estimated five) to lure Ankara, the Turkish government would not swallow its word. Cyprus is perhaps the biggest but not the only problem Turkey faces in its relations with the EU.
As the economic crisis pushes France and Germany to be the locomotive forces behind the union to redefine the whole project where a unanimous vote on every matter would no longer be needed, Turkey is watching the developments closely. Both Nicholas Sarkozy of France and Angela Merkel of Germany have been proposing a “privileged partnership” for Turkey because it is too big, too poor and predominantly Muslim.
The Arab Spring and the economic crisis in Europe slightly shifted the balance in favor of Turkey, but Turkey has been considering that proposal as an insult and has rejected it from day one.
“But if the EU is going to change the rules into a multi-gear Europe and certain conditions will no longer be an exception for Turkey, we might consider the situation accordingly,” Bağış said. Ankara sees 2014 as a critical year not only for Turkey and Turkey’s relations with the EU, but for the EU itself. Because:
1. The EU will have a new budget in 2014 until 2020
2. French elections in 2012 and German elections in 2013 can change the political look in Europe and
3. There are presidential elections and local elections in Turkey in 2014.
The year 2014 is also the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and might be a critical year to watch.
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