“True” Magazine, no.15, 30 April 2006
THE ABSORPTION CAPACITY OF THE EU AND THE CYPRUS PROBLEM
Chairman of the EU Commission
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
Two issues are brought to the forefront in the recent weeks in connection with the accession process of Turkey to the EU: The absorption capacity of the EU and the Cyprus problem.
The Turkish public opinion is tired of the frequent references made to the absorption capacity of the EU when Turkey’s name is mentioned. This may have been the same for the previous candidate countries as well. However, there is a widespread perception in Turkey that this reference is unnecessarily over-emphasized when the subject matter is Turkey.
It is only logical that the EU will not agree to admit new members if it has already reached the limits of its absorption capacity. However, the over-emphasis on this subject is perceived in Turkey more like an advance warning to the Turkish public opinion, so that it should not over-react if Turkey is told sometimes in the future that it will not be admitted to the EU.
Nobody in Turkey cherish a hope that Turkey would be allowed to enter the EU without successfully concluding the negotiations. On the other hand, the Turkish people trust that its government has the will and power to complete the negotiations sooner or later.
Therefore, the question of Turkey’s accession will not arise in a concrete form before the completion of negotiations of all chapters, if they are not jammed unnecessarily with criteria that have nothing to do with the chapter under consideration.
The member countries have an inalienable and imprescriptible right to reject the accession of a new member country if they do not have the political will to admit it. So, do they need an additional pretext to justify their rejection? They may need it, because it looks more innocent for a member country to claim that the EU has no capacity to absorb a country like Turkey rather than confessing that it has no political will to support Turkey’s accession.
The second issue that is brought to the forefront is the Cyprus problem. The Greek Cypriot administration of Cyprus wishes to be recognized by Turkey while it refuses the establishment of a re-unified Cyprus as recommended in the Annan Plan.
The emphasis in the Cyprus problem shifted from the question of the recognition to the question of the opening of Turkey’s harbours to the Greek Cypriot registered ships, now that everyone has come to understand that, until a solution acceptable to both sides is found in the Island, Turkey will not recognize Cyprus.
Will Turkey open its harbours? Turkish Foreign Minister Gül offered to open Turkish harbours at the same time as the lifting of the economic restrictions imposed on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. If the EU has the right under the Association Agreement to ask Turkey to open its harbours, Turkey has also the right to ask the EU to live up to its commitments to alleviate the economic restrictions imposed on the north of the Island.
We will see very soon whether Papadopulos will raise such a wide-ranging issue within the context of the opening of the negotiations under the chapters such as “Education and Culture” or “Science and Research”.
Logically it will be difficult to justify an effort to bloc the opening of the negotiations for reasons that do not pertain to the chapter under consideration. However, if Papadopulos still blocs them, it will not be the first time that the Greek Cypriot leadership will be adopting an attitude difficult to explain to reasonable people.