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12° Nicosia,
23 May, 2024
 
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Cyprus problem overlooked in EU Summit discussions on Turkey

Cyprus-Turkey rift widens as EU draft conclusions fall short

Pavlos Xanthoulis

Pavlos Xanthoulis

The EU Council Secretariat has submitted a preliminary set of conclusions ahead of the upcoming Summit on April 17-18, delving into the matter of Turkey following the unresolved discussions from the previous March Summit and the disagreements between Nicosia and Berlin. However, to the disappointment of President Christodoulides, the draft conclusions do not quite match the expectations and assurances. Let's dissect it:

• The opening paragraph sets the stage for the forthcoming discussions by stating, "The European Council engaged in a strategic discourse on EU-Turkey relations, taking into consideration the document by the High Representative and the Commission concerning the status of EU-Turkey political, economic, and trade relations. The European Council urges progress on the joint document, aligning with prior European Council conclusions and adopting a gradual, proportionate, and reversible approach, with additional guidance from the European Council as necessary." Thus, the aim of this paragraph is to secure political commitment from all member states to advance the work outlined in the Borrell/Commission document. This document, as a reminder, offers incentives for Turkey across seven pillars spanning the breadth of EU-Turkey relations, including the sensitive issue of upgrading the country's Customs Union, which raises concerns in Nicosia. The first paragraph is marked by the typical EU assertion that work on the Borrell/Commission document will proceed reversibly and with additional guidance from the European Council, "as required." While some may argue that this reference provides assurance for Cyprus, actualizing this additional guidance would require Nicosia to demand it and garner unanimous support from its 26 counterparts, a task that, given current circumstances, "pushes the boundaries of scientific imagination," as a foreign source in Brussels noted to "K".

• The second paragraph of the conclusions is particularly significant for Nicosia, as it states, "Recalling its prior conclusions, the European Council remains fully committed to achieving a comprehensive resolution of the Cyprus issue within the framework of the UN, in alignment with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the foundational principles of the EU and its acquis. The European Union welcomes the appointment of Maria Angela Holguin Cuéllar as the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Cyprus. The European Union stands prepared to play an active role in supporting all stages of the process under UN leadership, employing all appropriate means at its disposal. Emphasizing the importance of resuming and advancing the Cyprus settlement talks, which could also bolster EU-Turkey cooperation," it concludes.

Pay attention to the final sentence of the draft conclusions: The resumption of talks and progress, it suggests, "could also enhance EU-Turkey cooperation."

Instead of making the resolution of the Cyprus issue a prerequisite for any EU-Turkish cooperation, the draft conclusions reverse the equation entirely, to the surprise of Nicosia! It perceives EU-Turkish cooperation as a given, even hinting that it could be strengthened (note: further strengthened, that's the meaning of the word "enhanced") if talks on Cyprus commence and progress is made.

In essence, the EU, based on the draft conclusions, separates the resolution of the Cyprus issue from the envisioned "long-term EU-Turkish relationship," horizontally and vertically. While providing some positive references to Cyprus, these are lukewarm on paper and by no means make the resolution of the issue a "prerequisite" for the new long-term EU-Turkish relationship and the seven incentives intended for Ankara.

Therefore, everything promised by President Christodoulides, including increased EU involvement and the appointment of a European envoy, is notably absent from the draft conclusions. It would be advantageous if the president manages to enhance it and, most importantly, ensures the linkage between the resolution of the Cyprus issue and EU-Turkish relations, delivering on his commitments that EU-Turkish relations will be intertwined with Cyprus. However, if he fails to do so, it would be wise not to attempt to embellish the conclusions, as he has done in other instances. Besides the apparent absence of promised elements, any attempt at embellishment would also indicate a lack of sincerity.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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