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14 June, 2024
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Cyprus problem takes back seat to Euro-Turkish relations

Christodoulides' summit mission takes unexpected turn


President Christodoulides focused his efforts during both preparatory meetings and the summit (17-18 April) on forging a connection between the resolution of the Cyprus problem and the "new long-term Euro-Turkish relationship," as outlined in a document jointly prepared by High Representative Josep Borrell and the Commission last November. Insider information suggests that the pivotal term the President and his team aimed to emphasize in the summit's conclusions revolved around the concept of "condition."

Specifically, they sought to include a reference implying that resolving the Cyprus issue should serve as a prerequisite for advancing the "new long-term Euro-Turkish relationship." However, this proposal faced staunch opposition. A foreign diplomatic source explained, "Such a reference, with any variation of the word 'condition,' would instrumentalize the new Euro-Turkish relationship, placing it under the condition of a solution to the Cyprus problem. And that was not something that could be accepted," the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity to "K."

Ultimately, the solution reached subtly intertwines Euro-Turkish issues with the Cyprus problem. Rather than being a "condition," the Cyprus problem is positioned as a "means" of further strengthening the Euro-Turkish relationship. This compromise allowed President Christodoulides to save face and maintain internal support while achieving his ultimate goal.

The adopted conclusions commit the 27 leaders, including President Christodoulides, to "advance the work on the recommendations of the joint document" prepared by Borrell and the Commission. This document proposes granting Turkey several concessions, including upgrading the customs union, a demand supported by Ankara and Chancellor Merkel's Germany. Additionally, the conclusions emphasize Turkey's constructive role in enhancing cooperation with the EU, particularly concerning the Cyprus settlement talks. This indicates a connection between Euro-Turkish relations and the Cyprus problem, albeit not as a precondition, as initially sought by Christodoulides and his team.

President Christodoulides expressed "great satisfaction" with the summit's conclusions, asserting that the goal of achieving "substantial interconnection between the Euro-Turkish and the Cyprus problem" had been realized. However, if Nicosia had truly secured what the President claims it obtained, it would not have had to negotiate until the end to secure two "safeguards," which are nonetheless considered of questionable effectiveness. These safeguards include assigning COREPER (Committee of Permanent Representatives) a role in promoting the Borrell/Commission document, and reinstating a provision for "additional guidance from the European Council," giving all member states veto power.

The only tangible result of the Euro-Turkish summit is the unanimous decision of the leaders of the 27 member states to endorse the Borrell/Commission document and agree "to move forward with the work on its recommendations." President Christodoulides supported the promotion of work on the document's recommendations, which have been known since last November and offer Turkey seven concessions across various areas of cooperation.

[This is a summary of Pavlos Xanthoullis' story published on Kathimerini Sunday's edition]

Cyprus  |  EU  |  Turkey

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