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AHI Statement on EU's Decision Regarding Turkey's Date for Accession Negotiations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
December 29, 2004—No.83 (202) 785-8430

AHI STATEMENT ON EU’S DECISION REGARDING TURKEY’S DATE FOR ACCESSION NEGOTIATIONS

WASHINGTON, DC—On December 16-17, 2004 European Union leaders met in Brussels for a summit where they decided to give Turkey a date to begin EU membership negotiations, which is scheduled for October 3, 2005. However, an agreement that was made between the twenty-five leaders calls for Turkey to sign an accord opening Turkey’s custom’s union, the Ankara Agreement, to the 10 new EU members including Cyprus. This agreement must be met before the beginning of membership talks in October.

The December 21, 2004 Cyprus New Agency reported that Dutch Prime Minister and President of the European Council, Jan Peter Balkenende, stated that "the signing of the protocol was not an official recognition of the Republic of Cyprus but a necessary first step in that direction."

While the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) commends the European Union for imposing certain important conditions on Turkey before EU accession negotiations can begin, AHI condemns the EU’s failure to make immediate demands of Turkey.

"How can the EU reconcile that an aspiring candidate state, Turkey, currently illegally occupies another EU Member state, Cyprus, with 35,000 troops and 100,000 illegal settlers? The EU, at a minimum, should have demanded the immediate removal of both the troops and the settlers and the tearing down of the Green Line barbed wire fence. In addition it should have demanded the immediate recognition of Cyprus by Turkey," stated AHI President, Gene Rossides.

"Frankly, it puzzles me how the EU could have even begun discussing an accession date for Turkey, considering Turkey has failed to meet certain pre-conditions that were set forth at the December 1999 EU Helsinki Summit," said AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis.

One condition was the resolution of "outstanding border disputes" or, failing this, referral "within a reasonable time" to the International Court of Justice. This is a reference to Turkey’s unilateral territorial claims in the Aegean.

The final document of the recent EU 2004 Summit says it welcomes Turkey’s "…readiness to continue to work with the concerned Member states towards resolution of outstanding border disputes…" and "…reaffirmed its view that unresolved disputes having repercussions on the accession process, should if necessary be brought to the International Court of Justice for settlement."

"This, however, was a requirement that was imposed on Turkey during the 1999 Helsinki Summit. Turkey has not met this obligation regarding the Aegean and further, has continued to escalate its provocations in the Aegean with its neighbor and EU Member, Greece, by routinely violating Greece territorial integrity. The EU could help ease this issue by simply acknowledging that the boundaries in the Aegean Sea are as stated by international law and treaties to which Turkey is a party," said Rossides.

Another condition during the 1999 Helsinki Summit was that Turkey’s candidacy for accession will be subject to the full political and economic criteria established by the 1993 Copenhagen Council for all candidate states. The "Copenhagen Criteria" cover such issues as democratic governance, the rule of law, human rights, protection of minority rights and a functioning market economy able to cope with EU market forces.

Mr. Larigakis said: "Are we to believe that Turkey today satisfies the ‘Copenhagen Criteria?’ Isn’t Turkey occupying Cyprus? Isn’t Turkey violating its neighbor’s borders in the Aegean? Isn’t Turkey restricting religious freedom of minorities in Turkey, including the Ecumenical Patriarch, the spiritual leader of 290 million Orthodox Christians? Doesn’t the military establishment heavily influence the Turkish government? And does the Turkish economy meet the EU criteria?"

"Turkey still faces a number of challenges before it can become a full EU member…Turkey must, for example, broaden rights for ethnic and religious minorities and limit the military’s influence in politics." See AP story in washingtonpost.com, Sunday, December 19, 2004.

An editorial on Saturday, December 18, 2004 in The Washington Times, titled "Turkey’s EU moment" states:

"Turkey, with its population of about 72 million, is projected by 2025 to have the largest population in the union. That combined with its relative poverty, means it would be a net recipient of EU subsidies. The per capita income in Turkey is about $4,000, a fraction of the EU average. A study prepared for the European Commission found that, as an EU member, Turkey could receive between $20.2 billion and $34.2 billion in annual subsidies starting in 2005."

While Turkey’s European aspirations have been a focal point of political debate in recent months, no matter where you stand on the issue, the simple fact is that by the European Union’s own criteria, Turkey does not qualify to be in the EU and does not even qualify to have a debate ensue for an accession negotiation date.

The United States supports Turkey’s aspirations for reason’s that are grounded in ill-conceived arguments as they might relate to geo-strategic interests.

For the Europeans, the issue is more practical, as they might have to reconcile amongst themselves how would Turkey’s inclusion affect them economically, politically and culturally. To this end "The decision to open the accession talks does not guarantee that Turkey will join the union. The final text of the communiqué issued Friday (December 17, 2004) called the discussion ‘open ended’ with no guarantee of membership." See theWashington Post, Saturday, December 18, 2004, p. A22.

While it could take 10 years or more before Turkey could complete its accession negotiations, the EU should have demanded the minimum criteria before granting a date that is "open ended" and "with no guarantees." "It would seem that the EU is hedging its own decision. Unfortunately, such decisions are bad politics and facilitate double standards that set up bigger problems in the future," said Larigakis.

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.