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27 May, 2024
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Fragile balance in Euro-Turkish relations

Ankara draws red line: Cyprus problem sparks showdown at summit

Pavlos Xanthoulis

Pavlos Xanthoulis

Before the Summit's conclusion, the phones were buzzing with excitement. President Christodoulides and his inner circle were busy crafting a narrative of triumph, touting an "unprecedented fusion" between the Cyprus conundrum and Euro-Turkish relations. Headlines blazed, celebrations ensued, and behind the scenes, the presidential team even prepared a detailed memo urging coalition parties to fall in line and stifle any dissent.

In Christodoulides' version of events, Ankara inadvertently played right into his hands, reacting vehemently to the Conclusions document and emphatically stating it would "never accept" the intertwining of the Cyprus issue with Euro-Turkish relations. This was interpreted simply: if Ankara protests, then Christodoulides must have succeeded!

Yet, reality tells a more nuanced tale. Both Christodoulides and Ankara were engaged in their own communication strategies. Christodoulides, as usual, focused on rallying domestic support, while Ankara, true to form, sought to maximize its gains from the Summit.

Let's delve into what the Conclusions actually convey about this "interconnection" and what each party truly gained:

- The European Council delegates the Permanent Representatives Committee, COREPER, to advance the recommendations laid out in the joint Borrell/Commission document. Essentially, this means promoting the comprehensive Euro-Turkish relationship proposed jointly by the High Representative and the Commission last November, including the seven incentives suggested for Turkey, such as the upgrade of the Customs Union. It's worth noting that these recommendations envision granting the seven incentives to Turkey without any direct linkage to the Cyprus issue. Therefore, the endorsement of the Borrell/Commission document and the decision to promote it, with the endorsement of all "27", including President Christodoulides, represents an undeniable win for Turkey.

- Furthermore, the Conclusions underscore that "Turkey's constructive stance will be pivotal in enhancing various areas of cooperation outlined in the Borrell/Commission document." Subsequently, it emphasizes that "from this standpoint, the EU attaches particular importance to the resumption and progress of talks for the settlement of the Cyprus issue, to further strengthen EU-Turkey cooperation." These passages make it clear that the resolution of the Cyprus issue is not a prerequisite for the new comprehensive Euro-Turkish relationship and its associated incentives. Instead, the Conclusions treat the new Euro-Turkish relationship as a given, while positioning the Cyprus issue, formerly touted as a "condition" by Mr. Christodoulides, under his signature, as a "means" to further bolster the existing comprehensive Euro-Turkish relationship. Thus, the progression of Euro-Turkish relations is assured regardless, and any progress on the Cyprus issue will only serve to reinforce it. This is the true essence of the "interconnection," as opposed to the spin put forth by President Christodoulides and his team.

- Despite this, President Christodoulides failed to uphold his reputation for assertiveness, particularly concerning the appointment of "a strong political personality by the European Council" to support efforts to restart talks and contribute to the resolution of the Cyprus issue. Essentially, Christodoulides, who consented to the promotion of the new Euro-Turkish relationship, seemed to overlook ensuring the parallel appointment of "a strong political personality by the European Council." Despite this being his apparent flagship initiative.

In summary, the Conclusions fall short of President Christodoulides' assertion that "the new Euro-Turkish relationship hinges on the Cyprus issue." Rather, one could argue, based on Christodoulides' maneuvers, that "Euro-Turkish relations now transcend the Cyprus issue."

Nevertheless, despite the nuances, the developments at the Summit didn't stop the President from publicly expressing "particular satisfaction" with the Conclusions, claiming victory in achieving "substantial interconnection of Euro-Turkish-Cypriot relations." The future of Euro-Turkish relations, he claimed, hinges on progress in Cyprus, a narrative that may not have won the Summit battle, but has undoubtedly prevailed in the battle for perception!

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  opinion  |  Turkey

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