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Turkey – EU: Waiting for Godot

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Turkey has been applying for the EU membership since 1987 when Turgut Ozal, the 8th President of Turkey submitted an application. But until today, they have failed to convince the EU as well as the EU member states that they are fit to be a part of the European community via the EU. They are many factors that might have contributed to the failure of Turkey’s application. One of the factors that has been heavily debated is on the historical perspectives based on the culture and identity. The European identity is one of the core importance in discussing about EU membership or enlargement process. The question that is being asked here is whether Turkey has that European identity within their country. In addition if we look at the history of Europe’s relation with the Ottoman Empire in the past would also be a deciding factor too as some Europeans would remember the shadows of conflict between both sides back in the day. The Ottoman Empire and its Muslim identity as well as the Christian Europe might have also shaped the minds of Europeans when Turkey applied for EU membership (Multuler &Taskin, 2007)

“While the cacophony of European contradictions works towards a self-elimination of the EU from the MENA/Euro-Med region, Turkey tries to reinsert itself. The so-called neo-Ottomanism of the current government is steering the country right into the centre of grand bargaining for both Russia and for the US. To this emerging triangular constellation, ambitious and bold PM Erdoğan wishes to beat his own drum. … Past the Arab Spring, Turkey wakes up to itself as the empiric proof that Islam and modernity work together. In fact, it is the last European nation that still has both demographic and economic growth. … Moreover, Ataturk’s Republic is by large and by far the world’s most successful Muslim state: It was never resting its development on oil or other primary-commodity exports, but on a vibrant socio-economic sector and solid democratic institutions. … The very outcome will be felt significantly beyond the Arab region and will reverberate all across the Sunni Muslim world. (Bajrektarevic, Anis, 2016)

Besides the factor of history, culture and identity there were also war and human rights issues that hindered Turkey’s application to the EU. Turkey got involved in a bloody Kurdish revolution in South-East Anatolia during the mid-1980s. Turkey was accused of abusing human rights as well as persecuting the minorities during the revolution. Turkey’s failure to improve human rights and the rights of minorities made it difficult for them to be accepted into the EU. In addition, the EU also raised doubts about Turkey’s ability in implementing the necessary social, political and economic adjustments needed to enter the EU. This was mentioned by the EU back in the 1990s but until today these issues still exist in Turkey. Government-led restrictions on media freedom and freedom of expression in 2015 went hand in- and with efforts to discredit the political opposition and prevent scrutiny of government policies in the run-up to the two general elections (Human Rights Watch, 2015). Recently, President Tayyip Erdogan has been arresting political activists, journalists and other critical of public officials since the attempted military coup happened in 15th July 2016. (Amnesty International, 2016). These are all the issues that has definitely contributed and effected Turkey’s EU membership application.

Another factor that has contributed to the failure of Turkey’s EU membership application is the fact that they currently occupy the northern part of Cyprus till this day. The issue of Cyprus and Turkey became significant when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in retaliation to Greece that had already occupied Cyprus since 1964 (Fitzgerald, 2009). At present, the Turkish troops occupy the northern part of Cyprus whereas the southern part of Cyprus is currently independent and has its own government. The connection between the Cyprus issue and the membership of Turkey into the EU became noticeable when Cyprus and Turkey both became candidates for EU membership and it was announced at the 1999 Helsinki Summit. Both countries were destined to join the European Union and at that time, it was confirmed that the situation in Cyprus was not involved in the decision making for the candidature. There were not precondition that was mentioned. But it was important for Turkey to play an active and important role in bringing about a settlement in Cyprus.

But on 1st May 2004, Cyprus was accepted as an EU member state and Turkey remained on the sidelines. The membership of Cyprus in the EU has made in even difficult for Turkey to become a member and it constitutes an important obstacle for EU accession of Turkey. This is because Turkey cannot become a member of the EU without recognizing the Republic of Cyprus.  Since it joining the EU, Cyprus has used its veto to prevent the EU from passing the so-called direct trade regulation needed to lift tariffs on good from Northern Cyprus. (Barysch, 2010). In addition, Cyprus as a member of the EU has also used its veto to block Turkey’s negotiations on accession with the European Union (Kambas, 2015). Cyprus have also said that it will not end its veto for the time being. These shows that the Cyprus issue is definitely one of the stumbling blocks for Turkey to strike any sort of deal with the EU and this deal includes their EU membership application.

Is the Cyprus issue one of the crucial factors that is currently effecting Turkey’s membership application after it became an EU member state in 2004. The first part of the paper will discuss about the Cyprus issue before it became an EU member state whether there were also other factors that affected Turkey’s membership application. The first part will discuss a little about history and then move on to Cyprus issue from 1974 until 2004. The second part will discuss about the Cyprus issue after it became an EU member state in 2004 where it seems that the Cyprus issue was definitely a very crucial factor that is currently affecting Turkey’s membership application.

Greek and Turkish Intervention in 1974

Cyprus became an independent nation in 1960 after both the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots agreed to sign the London-Zurich Agreement (BBC News, 2016). The agreement guaranteed the right of the Turkish minorities that were around 18% of the population as well as the rights of the Greek majority which comprised around 80% of the population at that time. Prior to that, both the Greeks and Turkish Cypriots had demanded the British to give them independence. While Cyprus was already an independent country, their first President of Cyprus Archbishop Makarios said to have proposed constitutional changes called the Akritas Plan that would abolish power sharing in Cyprus and at the same suppress Turkish Cypriots. (Ellis, 2010). There were also sources that said Deputy President of Cyprus and also Turkish Cypriot Community Leader, Fazil Kutchuk wanted to break away from the state and set up a separate administration with the help of Turkey (Charalambous, 2014). These lead to communal violence and Turkey withdrawal from power sharing. There were already problems that were happening internally in Cyprus as both the leaders of Greek and Turkish Cypriots had a feud over the constitution and there was an ethnic divide.

The situation in the Republic of Cyprus became worst in July 1974 when there was an intervention by Greece when they overthrew ruling government of President Archbishop Makarios in Republic of Cyprus (Nugent, 1999). The military coup was led by Nikos Sampson who had had the support of the military regime in Greece as they wanted a union (enosis) to be achieved between

Cyprus and Greece (Smith, 2014). Supporters of President Makarios rejected the idea of union (enosis) as they wanted to be an independent nation. In the same month and year, Turkey also intervened in Republic of Cyprus with operation Atilla. Their reason for intervening is to protect the rights to the Turkish Cypriots (Hislop, 2014). Both coups resulted in a civil war that broke out between both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots with the help of both countries as well. The coup by Greece collapsed and the war had ended in August 1974 as the Turkish military were able to capture one-third of the island and it was in the northern part of Republic of Cyprus. They had occupied Famagusta and the Karpas Peninsula. The intervention in 1974 forced a partition as the island was separated along the Green Line that was already in place since 1963 as it was drawn up by the UN forces due to the ongoing domestic conflicts (Fitzgerald, 2009). Greek Cypriots living in the north were forced out to the south and vice versa for the Turkish Cypriots living in the south when they fled to the north. Republic of Cyprus was now divided into two states

The Divided Cyprus  

Up till today, Republic of Cyprus is divided into two states. The UN Security Council has warned the Turkey to withdraw its troops but they have failed to do so. There are almost 35,000 Turkish troops stationed in the Northern Cyprus (Nugent, 1999). Immediately after the war, Turkish Cypriots established an independent administration. There was an effort for peace talks between both north and south Cyprus but it collapsed and as a result of that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was formed in 1983. The southern Cyprus was known as The Republic of Cyprus (ROC). The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is only recognized by Turkey and it not recognized internationally by the UN whereas the Republic of Cyprus is recognized internationally by the UN and not by Turkey (Comfort, 2005). This means that the northern Cyprus depends wholly on Turkey for survival as it does not have ties internationally. Northern Cyprus has so far maintained its existence and rebuffed all attempts by the world body to submit to the current Cyprus government in the south. (Bhutta, 2016). They believed that they are an independent nation of their own.  The Green Line which was supposed to be a temporary ceasefire has not become permanent. People from both sides are not allowed to communicate with each other although they have been effort to change this when the Turkish Cypriots opened the barricades along the Green Line for visitors on both sides of the divide. (Hislop, 2014).

A divided Cyprus has definitely made things more complicated between the two sections of the country as well as the relationship between Turkey and Republic of Cyprus (southern Cyprus). The Republic of Cyprus feels that stationed troops in northern Cyprus is definitely seen as a threat and an occupying force. (Comfort, 2005).

The Cyprus Effect on Turkey’s EU Membership Application until the Year 1990 

Turkey started to eye the EU membership for many decades since it was named as the European Community (EC) back then. Turkey’s official membership application was in 1959 when it applied to become a member of the European Community (EC). The application was rewarded with the Ankara Agreement which was signed by both Turkey and the EU in 1963. (Gerhards & Hans, 2011). The Ankara Agreement was not an agreement that guaranteed full membership yet but it was the first step towards full membership in the future. The Ankara Agreement signed in 1963 was limited to only trade and financial matters. In 1970, there was another milestone in the application when both Turkey and the EU signed the 1970 Additional Protocol establishing a 22 year transnational period leading to customs union (EUEC, 2008). Although protocol was signed, Turkey strategy for economic development was not in line with EC and there was going to a re-negotiation on the deal was signed. At an early stage, Turkey EU membership application was more towards dealing between only the EU and Turkey. There was obvious third party that was involved in making sure that negotiations failed. Turkey’s initial membership application was not yet effected by the Cyprus issue.

The interventions in Cyprus by Greece and Turkey definitely impacted Turkey’s quest for the EC membership. After 1974, it could be said that the EC took a very careful approach in identifying Turkey as a possible candidate for the EC. The division of Cyprus definitely had an effect on Turkey’s membership application. Besides the Cyprus factor, there were also other strong factors that affected the relationship between the EC and Turkey. Both parties had a rough relationship because of the domestic politics in Turkey at that time. Unfavorable domestic political developments in Turkey and most importantly the military coup that happened on 12 September 1980 made Turkey’s possible EC membership totally irrelevant (Grigoriadis, 2003). During this period, Turkey isolated themselves from EU until the civilian government took power in 1983.

There was also another important factor that was effected Turkey’s EU membership application during this time. In 1981, while Turkey was in isolation due to its domestic problems, Greece became an official EU member. This basically meant that as an EU member Greece had veto powers to indirectly stop Turkey from becoming an EU member at that time. As an EU member, Greece was always able to affect EU policies on its benefits with respect to Turkey as well as the Cyprus issue (Basturk, 2013). In addition, Greece’s ascension as the EU member at that time had given Greece the ultimate opportunity to point the finger at Turkey of being an invader in relation to the Cyprus issue which was a breach of the idea of an ‘European’ identity which was based the values of peace and democracy. (Ulusoy, 2009). Despite of all these factors, Turkey applied for full EU membership in 1987 but as expected the EU felt that Turkey was not ready for the membership. In December 1989 the EU decided that it will not accept any members at that moment of time. In terms of Turkey application, the EU said to have had concerns about developmental gap between the EU and Turkey which meant that Turkey could not fulfil its obligations of developing from the EU economic and social policies (Grigoriadis, 2003). In addition to the mentioned reason, the EU also referred to Turkey’s ongoing disagreements with Greece as well as the Cyprus issue. Besides that, the EU was also referring to the fact that the human rights issue and treatment of the minorities in Turkey would still need improvement (Hale, 2000). Thus for this reasons Turkey’s EU membership application in 1987 was rejected by the EU.

It could be said that at this point of time the influence of Greece in the EU could be seen as even more vital factor than the Cyprus issue itself. This is because the issue related to Cyprus was initially being strongly voiced out by Greece rather than the EU. We could analyze that after Greece’s ascension into the EU in 1981, the voice on the Cyprus issue by Greece became more vocal thus it definitely affected Turkey’s EU membership application. The Greek policy towards Turkey’s membership was always portrayed as a crucial factor for the lack of progress in the EU Turkey relations. In the minds of many Turkish citizens, Greece was the only obstacle to the accession of their country into the EU although Turkey was not eligible yet for the membership during the 1980s and 1990s (Georgiades, 2000). But by looking at it on a different angle, it could also be said that Turkey’s domestic politics also played a major role in their membership application. The military regime in Turkey during their isolation between 1980-1983 gave the window of opportunity for Greece to become an EU member and influence the EU in some way.

The situation might have been a little different if Turkey did not isolate themselves. They might have influenced the EU too in making sure that Greece was not a member of the EU. Although it seems that the Cyprus issue played a major role in Turkey EU membership application, but it can be argued that it played an indirectly role altogether as the ascension of Greece into the EU and Turkey domestic politics played a more crucial role during this period of time until 1990 that ultimately affected Turkish EU membership application.

The Cyprus Effect a Non Crucial Factor between 1990 to 2004  

Turkey EC membership application seemed to have hit a new blow when Republic of Cyprus applied to become the member of the EU as well in 1990. The application by EU definitely shocked the Turkey and northern Cyprus. Turkey feared that they would face another obstacle if Republic of Cyprus became an EU member. Turkey insisted that the application should not be allowed by the EU as it is against the International Law and the constitution of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey received advice from international law expects. Article 8 of the Republic of Cyprus states that Republic of Cyprus cannot be a member of an international organization unless both Turkey and Greece are a member of it too (Mandelson, 1997). But this failed to convince the

EC as they taught that the issue of Cyprus’ accession is an eminently political debate and law can adapt itself to any political solution. But looking at it from another point of view, Turkey as also not abiding by the law as they were not following the European Court of Human Rights by not respecting the property rights of the Greek Cypriots in northern Cyprus (Suvarierol, 2003). It could be seen that Turkey one way or another was practicing double standard.

But looking at it clearly, the Cyprus issue was again not the crucial point here that was hindering Turkey’s EU membership application. The collapse of the communism in 1992 definitely had an impact on Turkey’s membership (EUEC, 2008). The communist bloc of the Soviet Union ended hence granting opportunity for the EU to establish a European bloc within the Central and Western European countries. In addition to that also, the countries that were finally released of communism were also performing poorly in terms of economy hence it needed all the help they could get from the European community via the EU. These countries were also given priorities because they were seemed to more culturally part of Europe than Turkey. This resulted in the prioritization of the Central and Western European countries as member states and Turkey fell down the picking order.

Besides the fall of the communist bloc, continuous pressure from Greece also contributed to Turkey’s EU membership application. The Copenhagen Criteria which was discussed in 1993 became Greece’s attack on Turkey. Greece used it as a tool to point fingers at Turkey. Greece criticized Turkey’s miserable human and minority rights record as well as their military influenced democracy.(Grigoriadis, 2003) Turkey who initially failed to meet the political criteria choose to then focus on the economic criteria. The EU gave priority to Turkey to complete the negotiations of the EU-Turkey customs union. But Greece again showed their influence when they used their veto policy to block the customs union agreement between Turkey and the EU (Grigoriadis. 2003). Greece seemed to be using the veto for its own national interest but they were not going to be convinced easily. Besides that, Greece were also very influential in making sure that Cyprus became one of the candidates that would join the EU. The deal was that Greece would lift its veto over Turkey’s customs union with the EU in return for the EU’s agreement to start accession talks with the Greek Cypriots on behalf of the whole island of Cyprus (Oguzlu, 2002).

Turkey’s customs union agreement came into force in January 1996 (EUEC, 2008) after Greece lifted its veto on the customs union in March 1995 (Suvarierol, 2003). Greece was influential once again when the 1999 Helsinki Summit finally granted candidateship to Turkey. This is because there was a precondition where Turkey would need to resolve their issue with Greece before starting EU membership negotiation(Oguzlu, 2002). In the same summit, Cyprus was also given candidateship without any pre-condition on their internal issue. The EU Accession Partnership Document for Turkey was publicized by the European Commission in November 2000. Once again Greece stood in the way of Turkey’s EU membership as they continued to pursue their agenda when they persuaded 14 fellow EU members to add another condition to the EU Accession Partnership Document by adding that Turkey should also resolve the Cyprus issue before negotiating EU membership (Franz, 2000). This generally shows that the Cyprus issue was again only an indirect factor to Turkey’s EU Membership because Greece were making all the important decisions directly. They did not only use the Cyprus issue as tool but also managed to influence other members states as well to make sure that Turkey was unsuccessful in their membership application.

It is not fair also to point fingers only at Greece because there were other EU member states too that did not want Turkey to become an EU member. German Foreign Minister at that time had an opinion that Turkey still have a long way but are already in line to be in EU but they were still lacking behind in terms of human rights referring to the Kurdish situation and also stressed about

Turkey’s relationship with Greece and Cyprus as well as some economic problems (Hurriyet Daily News, 1997). Besides that, during the Luxembourg Summit in 1997 Greece, Germany and Luxembourg opposed Turkey’s candidature for the EU (Muftuler, 2003). In addition there were also concerns among the EU member states regarding the distribution of votes in the Council of Minister as well as the number of seats in the European Parliament. This is because both criteria’s are based on size of population of the member states. The concern here was that Turkey might have the second highest population after Germany if it becomes an EU member state. It would mean that Turkey could influence the decision making in the European Union because they would have the second most number of votes in the European Parliament (Muftuler, 2003). The EU member states excluded Turkey as they wanted to make some changes to the population voting system if possible during the Nice Treaty. As a whole the Cyprus issue is once again not crucial as they were definitely other factors that hindered Turkey’s EU membership application. Concerns about Turkey’s population and the influence that they could have over the EU was definitely another dominant factor that made EU hesitant to grant EU membership to Turkey at that point of time.

Another important factor also during this time is when Turkey failed to live by the Copenhagen Criteria politically but they were brilliant economically as they achieved almost all the criteria. The EU Commission Progress Report in the year 2000 and 2001 demonstrated that the political aspect of the Copenhagen Criteria was one of the challenges faced by Turkey. There were still no improvements in terms of human rights although steps were taken to improve them. In addition, there was still problems related to the democratic structure of Turkey as civilian control over the government was yet to be addressed that time.  As a whole, the period the between 1990 to 2004 could be concluded in a way that the Cyprus issue was crucial in Turkey’s EU membership application. The Cyprus issue was only an indirectly as they had no prior say in whatever that was happening in the EU. The crucial factor here was Greece as they played a major role in the decision making process as they used the veto power to their advantage to block EU-Turkey deals.

The Cyprus Effect after the Year 2004   

The Republic Cyprus became an EU member on 1st May 2004. The Cyprus that became an EU member is the only the southern part of Cyprus. This is because the “Annan Plan” that was presented by the United Nations did work out as expected. The “Annan Plan” received mixed reactions from the southern and northern Cyprus. The initial reactions by Turkish Cypriots are that they were not in favor of the whole plan (Suvarierol, 2003). But the Turkish Cypriots began to grow into the plan and basically started to support “Annan Plan”. Civil societies in the Turkish part of Cyprus held demonstrations in support of a unified Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktas who was against unification was voted out of office in the December 2003 election (Kyris, 2012). It was for the first time in history that a pro-unification party won the election. The election results definitely showed that the Turkish Cypriots were definitely routing for unification as well a future in the EU. In general, the Turkish Cypriots approved the Annan Plan and was ready to unify their country.

However at the other side of the island in Cyprus, the Greeks Cypriots initially supported the “Annan Plan” whole heartedly without any shadow of a doubt. But elections in the 2003 changes the whole scenario when Tassos Papadopoulos became the new leader of Republic of Cyprus. The new leader was pretty much against the whole “Annan Plan” and wanted to make sure that the Greek Cypriots voted against unification of the island.   Papadopoulos started to create conditions to make sure the people reject the UN Resolution Plan with the help of many political and social elites created (Anastasiou, 2007). Besides that, a few days before the referendum Papadopoulos appeared to be emotionally telling his people through the television that the Greeks

Cypriots should reject the “Annan Plan” (Kyris, 2012). On 24th April 2004, On April 24, 2004, just a week from Cyprus’ entry into the EU, the results of the voting were out as 64.9% of the Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the “Annan plan” and they definitely wanted unification while but in a turn of events the Greek Cypriots rejected the “Annan Plan” 75.8% of Greek Cypriots voted against the plan (Ulosoy, 2008). As a result of this, The Republic of Cyprus remained a divided island as only the Southern part of the island entered the European Union (Basturk, 2013). This was definitely a blow to Turkey as this was the make or break decision that might have given the green light for Turkey EU membership.

The accession of only southern Cyprus into the EU definitely hampered the Turkey’s membership application into the EU. The Cyprus issue became one the major and crucial factors that affect Turkey’s negotiation process in becoming an EU member. Cyprus as an EU member now has direct power in term of veto to block Turkey from becoming an EU member. In addition, Cyprus also has the power to block any sort of deals in between Turkey and EU. The discussion over Turkey’s EU membership application started in 2005 where there needs to be a screening process for 35 chapters. Between 2005 and 2014, Turkey has completed the screening process in 33 of the chapters required for its accession while the balance of the other two chapters does not require negotiation. One of the important elements that is slowing the progress and making it difficult for the Turkish EU accession is the fact that 17 of the chapters remain blocked either by the EU or member states individually (Dagdeverenis, 2014). In the case of Turkey, delays and slow progress in discussion are mainly due to the Cyprus issue. This is because the EU Council have blocked atleast 8 chapters in December 2006. This was done when Turkey refused to recognize Cyprus and to ratify the Additional Protocol of the Ankara Association Agreement by not allowing Cyprus vessels and aircrafts to use Turkey’s ports and airports (Barysch, 2010). This block by the EU Council was due to the Cyprus issue that definitely became a crucial factor for Turkey’s EU membership application after 2004 as Cyprus became a member of the EU.

In addition to the 8 chapters blocked by the EU Council, the Cyprus issue again appears as even Cyprus chose to veto at least 6 chapters that is required for Turkey’s accession into the EU (Chislett, 2015). These six chapter are related to six chapters: (1) freedom of movement for workers; (2) energy; (3) judiciary and fundamental rights; (4) justice, freedom and security; (5) education and culture; and (6) foreign, security and defense policy (Chislett, 2015). Hence this means that a total of 14 chapters are blocked due to the issue of Cyprus and this has again slowed down negotiation for the accession process for Turkey. This shows that the veto power that Cyprus received after entering EU in 2004 has now become an important tool to block and slow down Turkey’s EU membership application. In addition to that, the failure of Turkey in recognizing Cyprus as an EU member has also contributed to the slow process of Turkey’s membership into the EU which is definitely closely related to the Cyprus issue. This proves that after 2004, the Cyprus issue has definitely become an important and crucial factor that has impacted Turkey’s EU membership application.

Besides the blocking of chapters by the EU Council and Cyprus in relation to the Cyprus issue, since becoming an EU member Cyprus has definitely become aggressive towards Turkey.

In 2014, the Greek Cypriots said that it would file a complaint to the EU leaders to block Turkey’s attempts in joining the European Union (Middle East Eye, 2014). This was in response to Turkey’s gas exploration expedition done in the waters claimed by Cyprus. Turkey said to have send a warship into the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to conduct seismic surveys which was definitely a threat to the safety of Cyprus. President Nicos Anastasiades said that formal complaints will also be lodged with the U.N. Division for Oceans and Law of the Sea, the International Maritime Organization and possibly with the U.N. Security Council (CNS News, 2014). This again shows that the Cyprus issue has definitely become a crucial factor because since becoming an EU member in 2004 Cyprus has been very brace and aggressive towards Turkey and are definitely making it hard for Turkey to become an EU members states.

In 2015, Cyprus showed their aggressiveness again when they pledged to block Turkey’s stalled accession negotiations to join the EU. This is because Turkey has not done enough to reunite the divided island of the Republic of Cyprus. In order to restart negotiation, there needs to be a consent from all EU members (Zalan, 2015). Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides mentioned that Cyprus is sticking to the veto for as long as Turkey doesn’t live up to its obligations.

The Greek Cypriot administration threatened to block Turkey’s bid until the Turkish “occupation” of northern Cyprus is ended (TRT World, 2015). This act by Cyprus again shows how far does the Cyprus issue is currently the crucial factor towards Turkey’s EU membership process. The accession of Cyprus into the EU has given it power to basically rule over Turkey in their bid for an EU membership. The 14 chapters that are currently blocked and vetoed definitely shows that the Cyprus issue is a crucial factor towards Turkey’s dream of being an EU member since 2004. In addition to that, Cyprus’s bravery and confidence after 2004 also shows that they are not afraid of Turkey as they hold a huge advantage over them. Although there are other factors that affect Turkey’s EU membership application after 2004, I would personally argue that the Cyprus issue is the most crucial factor that stands in the way of Turkey and its membership application to the EU.

Is Godot About to Come ?

In conclusion, the Cyprus issue was not significant or crucial in Turkey’s EU membership application before it became an EU member in 2004. This is because the Cyprus issue was only an indirect factor rather than a direct factor. During the initial phase of Turkey’s membership application there was more two way discussion without any external interference as it was not yet influenced by the Cyprus issue. Later on, it seemed that Greece was having a bigger say than Cyprus when talking about the EU membership application. This happened after Turkey isolated themselves for three year which paved the way for Greece to become an EU member. The Greece factor was even more crucial during this stage rather than the Cyprus factor as they were voicing out for Cyprus. Between 1990 and 2004, the Cyprus issue was once again not crucial. This is because it was the end of Cold War and countries from Central and Western Europe were being prioritized as possible candidates. The EU wanted to unify the former communist in one community. Turkey was on sidelines as other European countries were preferred. Besides that, there were continuous pressure from Greece in terms of pin pointing Turkey human rights record as well as their military democracy. There were also other EU members states that did not favor Turkish it would become a member. One of their concern was Turkey might be able to influence the European Parliament if it entered the EU because it will have more seats in parliament due to their population. The Cyprus issue is not much of a crucial factor here during this period.

Once Cyprus became an EU member in 2004, the troubles came along for Turkey. This is because the Cyprus issue became a crucial factor that affected Turkey’s EU membership directly this time. Cyprus used its veto to block 6 chapters that were important to make sure that Turkey’s EU membership negotiation could take place. But due to this veto, Cyprus has basically slowed down the negotiation process. In addition, since becoming a member Cyprus have been brave to stand up to Turkey. This is because they now have the power to veto Turkey-EU membership negotiation just like they did in 2015. This was because Turkey was not taking steps to end their occupation in Northern Cyprus. It is indeed proven that the Cyprus issue only became a crucial and dominat factor after 2004 once it became an EU member. The veto power that they currently have place an important in making sure that Turkey does not become an EU member and Cyprus definitely stands in the way of Turkey’s EU membership even in the future.

Aaron Denison, Research Assistant at the Kuala Lumpur-based Asia-Europe Institute. His research interest is on Inter-Korean Relations, Regionalism in the European Union (EU), as well as on ASEAN and Asia-Pacific.

Europe

EU: The stalemate in negotiations brings Serbia ever closer to Russia and China

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Serbia has been waiting since 2012 for the European Union to respond to its application to become a full member of the EU.

In spite of exhausting negotiations, this response is slow in coming and the main cause of the stalemate has a clear name: Kosovo. Before accepting Serbia’s application for membership, the EU requires a definitive solution to the relations between Serbia and that region that broke away from it after the 1999 conflict – when NATO came to the aid of the Kosovo Albanians – and proclaimed its independence in February 2008.

Serbia has never recognised the birth of the Kosovo Republic, just as many other important countries have not: out of 193 UN members, only 110 have formally accepted the birth of the new republic, while the rest, including Russia, China, Spain, Greece and Romania – to name just the most important ones – refuse to recognise the independence of the Albanians of what was once a region of Serbia.

The European Union cannot accept that one of its members is in fact unable to guarantee control over its borders, as would be the case for Serbia if its membership were accepted.

In fact, since the end of the war between Kosovo and Serbia, there is no clear and controlled border between the two countries. In order to avoid continuous clashes, Kosovo and Serbia have actually left the border open, turning a blind eye to the ‘smuggling economy’ that thrives on both sides of the border.

In this situation, if Serbia were to become a full member of the European Union, it would create a gap in the borders of the entire Schengen area, as anyone passing through Kosovo could then move into all EU countries.This is not the only obstacle to Serbia’s accession to the European

Union: many European chancelleries are wary of Serbian foreign policy which, since the dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation, has maintained a privileged relationship with Russia, refusing to adhere to the sanctions decided by Europe against Russia after the annexation of Crimea to the detriment of Ukraine.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Serbia even agreed to produce the Russian vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ directly in its own laboratories, blatantly snubbing EU’s vaccine offer.

For the United States and some important European countries, Serbia’s formal accession to the European Union could shift the centre of gravity of Europe’s geopolitics towards the East, opening a preferential channel for dialogue between Russia and the European Union through Serbia.

This possibility, however, is not viewed unfavourably by Germany which, in the intentions of the CDU President, Armin Laschet, the next candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as Chancellor, has recently declared he is in favour of a foreign policy that “develops in multiple directions”, warning his Western partners of the danger resulting from “the interruption of the dialogue with Russia and China”. In this regard, Laschet has publicly stated that ‘foreign policy must always focus on finding ways to interact, including cooperation with countries that have different social models from ours, such as Russia, China and the nations of the Arab world’.

Today we do not know whether in autumn Laschet will take over the leadership of the most powerful country in the European Union, but what is certain is that Serbia’s possible formal membership of the European Union could force Europe to revise some of its foreign policy stances, under the pressure of a new Serbian-German axis.

Currently, however, Serbia’s membership of the European Union still seems a long way off, precisely because of the stalemate in the Serbia-Kosovo negotiations.

In 2013 Kosovo and Serbia signed the so-called ‘Brussels Pact’, an agreement optimistically considered by European diplomats to be capable of rapidly normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo, in view of mutual political and diplomatic recognition.

An integral part of the agreement was, on the one hand, the commitment of Kosovo’s authorities to recognise a high degree of administrative autonomy to the Kosovo municipalities inhabited by a Serb majority and, on the other hand, the collaboration of the Serbs in the search for the remains of the thousands of Kosovar Albanians presumably eliminated by Milosevic’s troops during the repression that preceded the 1999 war.

Neither of the two commitments has so far been fulfilled and, during the meeting held in Brussels on July 21 between Serbian President Alexander Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, harsh words and reciprocal accusations were reportedly exchanged concerning the failure to implement the ‘Pact’, to the extent that the Head of European foreign policy, Josep Borrel, publicly asked the two parties to ‘close the chapter of a painful past through a legally binding agreement on the normalisation of mutual relations, with a view to building a European future for its citizens’. This future seems nebulous, to say the least, if we consider that Serbia, in fact, refuses to recognise the legal value of degrees and diplomas awarded by the Kosovo academic authorities also to members of the Kosovo Serb minority.

Currently, however, both contenders are securing support and alliances in Europe and overseas.

Serbia is viewed favourably by the current President of the European Union, Slovenian Janez Jansa, who is a supporter of its membership because “this would definitively mark the dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation”. The vast majority of European right-wing parties, ranging from the French ‘Rassemblement National’ to the Hungarian ‘Fydesz’, also approve of Serbia’s membership application and openly court the Serbian minorities living in their respective countries while, after the years of US disengagement from the Balkans under Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump, the Biden administration has decided to put the region back on the list of priority foreign policy commitments, entrusting the ‘Serbia dossier’ to the undersecretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Matthew Palmer, an authoritative and experienced diplomat.

With a view to supporting its application for European membership, Serbia has also deployed official lobbyists.

Last June, Natasha Dragojilovic Ciric’s lobbying firm ND Consulting officially registered in the so-called EU ‘transparency register’ to promote support for Serbia’s membership. ND is financed by a group of international donors and is advised by Igor Bandovic, former researcher at the American Gallup and Head of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, by lawyer Katarina Golubovic of the ‘Committee of Human Rights Lawyers’ and Jovana Spremo, former OSCE consultant.

These are the legal experts deployed by Serbia in Brussels to support its application for formal European integration, but in the meantime Serbia is not neglecting its “eastern” alliances.

Earlier this month, the Head of the SVR, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, paid an official visit to Belgrade, a few weeks after the conclusion of a joint military exercise between Russian special forces (the “Spetznaz”) and Serbian special forces.

In the Serbian capital, Naryshkin not only met his Serbian counterpart Bratislav Gasic, Head of the ‘Bezbednosno Informativna Agencija’, the small but powerful Serbian secret service, but was also received by the President of the Republic Alexander Vucic with the aim of publicising the closeness between Serbia and Russia.

The timing of the visit coincides with the resumption of talks in Brussels on Serbia’s accession to the European Union and can clearly be considered as instrumental in exerting subtle diplomatic pressure aimed at convincing the European Union of the possibility that, in the event of a refusal, Serbia may decide to definitely turn its back on the West and ally with an East that is evidently more willing to treat the Serbs with the dignity and attention that a proud and tenacious people believes it deserves.

A piece of news confirming that Serbia is ready to turn its back on the West, should Europe continue to postpone the decision on its accession to the European Union is the fact that China has recently signed a partnership agreement with Serbia in the field of pharmaceutical research, an agreement that makes Serbia one of China’s current largest commercial partners on the European continent.

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Europe

NATO’s Cypriot Trick

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UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact died, there was much speculation that NATO would consider itself redundant and either disappear or at least transmogrify into a less aggressive body.

Failing that, Moscow at least felt assured that NATO would not include Germany, let alone expand eastwards. Even the NATO Review, NATO’s PR organ, wrote self-apologetically twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall: “Thus, the debate about the enlargement of NATO evolved solely in the context of German reunification. In these negotiations Bonn and Washington managed to allay Soviet reservations about a reunited Germany remaining in NATO. This was achieved by generous financial aid, and by the ‘2+4 Treaty’ ruling out the stationing of foreign NATO forces on the territory of the former East Germany. However, it was also achieved through countless personal conversations in which Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders were assured that the West would not take advantage of the Soviet Union’s weakness and willingness to withdraw militarily from Central and Eastern Europe.”

Whatever the polemics about Russia’s claim that NATO broke its promises, the facts of what happened following the fall of the Berlin wall and the negotiations about German re-unification strongly demonstrate that Moscow felt cheated and that the NATO business and military machine, driven by a jingoistic Cold War Britain, a selfish U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex and an atavistic Russia-hating Poland, saw an opportunity to become a world policeman.

This helps to explain why, in contrast to Berlin, NATO decided to keep Nicosia as the world’s last divided city. For Cyprus is in fact NATO’s southernmost point, de facto. And to have resolved Cyprus’ problem by heeding UN resolutions and getting rid of all foreign forces and re-unifying the country would have meant that NATO would have ‘lost’ Cyprus: hardly helpful to the idea of making NATO the world policeman. Let us look a little more closely at the history behind this.

Following the Suez debacle in 1956, Britain had already moved its Middle East Headquarters from Aden to Cyprus, while the U.S. was taking over from the UK and France in the Middle East. Although, to some extent under U.S. pressure, Britain was forced to bring Makarios out of exile and begin negotiating with Greece and Turkey to give up its colony, the U.S. opted for a NATO solution. It would not do to have a truly sovereign Cyprus, but only one which accepted the existence of the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) as part and parcel of any settlement; and so it has remained, whatever the sophistic semantics about a bizonal settlement and a double-headed government. The set of twisted and oft-contradictory treaties that have bedevilled the island since 1960 are still afflicting the part-occupied island which has been a de facto NATO base since 1949. Let us look at some more history.

When Cyprus obtained its qualified independence in 1960, Greece and Turkey had already signed, on 11 February 1959, a so called ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’, agreeing that they would support Cyprus’ entry into NATO.1 This was, however, mere posture diplomacy, since Britain—and the U.S. for that matter—did not trust Cyprus, given the strength of the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) and the latter’s links to Moscow. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) wrote: ‘Membership of NATO might make it easier for the Republic of Cyprus and possibly for the Greeks and Turks to cause political embarrassment should the United Kingdom wish to use the bases […] for national ends outside Cyprus […] The access of the Cypriot Government to NATO plans and documents would present a serious security risk, particularly in view of the strength of the Cypriot Communist Party. […] The Chiefs of Staff, therefore, feel most strongly that, from the military point of view, it would be a grave disadvantage to admit Cyprus to NATO.’2 In short, Cyprus was considered unreliable.

As is well known, the unworkable constitution (described as such by the Foreign Office and even by David Hannay, the Annan reunification plan’s PR man), resulted in chaos and civil strife: in January 1964, during the chaos caused by the Foreign Office’s help and encouragement to President Makarios to introduce a ‘thirteen point plan’ to solve Cyprus’ problems, British Prime Minister Douglas-Home told the Cabinet: ‘If the Turks invade or if we are seriously prevented from fulfilling our political role, we have made it quite clear that we will retire into base.’3 Put more simply, Britain had never had any intention of upholding the Treaty of Guarantee.

In July of the same year, the Foreign Office wrote: ‘The Americans have made it quite clear that there would be no question of using the 6th Fleet to prevent any possible Turkish invasion […] We have all along made it clear to the United Nations that we could not agree to UNFICYP’s being used for the purpose of repelling external intervention, and the standing orders to our troops outside UNFYCYP are to withdraw to the sovereign base areas immediately any such intervention takes place.’4

It was mainly thanks to Moscow and President Makarios that in 1964 a Turkish invasion and/or the island being divided between Greece and Turkey was prevented. Such a solution would have strengthened NATO, since Cyprus would no longer exist other than as a part of NATO members Greece and Turkey. Moscow had issued the following statement: ‘The Soviet Government hereby states that if there is an armed foreign invasion of Cypriot territory, the Soviet Union will help the Republic of Cyprus to defend its freedom and independence against foreign intervention.’5

Privately, Britain, realising the unworkability of the 1960 treaties, was embarrassed, and wished to relieve itself of the whole problem. The following gives us the backstage truth: ‘The bases and retained sites, and their usefulness to us, depend in large measure on Greek Cypriot co-operation and at least acquiescence. A ‘Guantanamo’6 position is out of the question. Their future therefore must depend on the extent to which we can retain Greek and/or Cypriot goodwill and counter USSR and UAR pressures. There seems little doubt, however, that in the long term, our sovereign rights in the SBA’s will be considered increasingly irksome by the Greek Cypriots and will be regarded as increasingly anachronistic by world public opinion.7

Following the Turkish invasion ten years later, Britain tried to give up its bases: ‘British strategic interests in Cyprus are now minimal. Cyprus has never figured in NATO strategy and our bases there have no direct NATO role. The strategic value of Cyprus to us has declined sharply since our virtual withdrawal from east of Suez. This will remain the case when the Suez Canal has reopened.8

A Cabinet paper concluded: ‘Our policy should continue to be one of complete withdrawal of our military presence on Cyprus as soon as feasible. […] In the circumstances I think that we should make the Americans aware of our growing difficulty in continuing to provide a military presence in Cyprus while sustaining our main contribution to NATO. […]9

Britain kept trying to give up the bases, but the enabler of the Turkish invasion, Henry Kissinger, did not allow Britain to give up its bases and listening posts, since that would have weakened NATO, and since Kissinger needed the bases because of the Arab-Israel dispute.10

Thus, by the end of 1980, in a private about-turn, Britain had completely succumbed to American pressure: ‘The benefits which we derive from the SBAs are of major significance and virtually irreplaceable. They are an essential contribution to the Anglo-American relationship. The Department have regularly considered with those concerned which circumstances in Cyprus are most conducive to our retaining unfettered use of our SBA facilities. On balance, the conclusion is that an early ‘solution’ might not help (since pressures against the SBAs might then build up), just as breakdown and return to strife would not, and that our interests are best served by continuing movement towards a solution – without the early prospect of arrival [author’s italics]11.

And so it is today: Cyprus is a de facto NATO territory. A truly independent, sovereign and united Cyprus is an anathema to the U.S. and Britain, since such a scenario would afford Russia the hypothetical opportunity to increase its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

From our partner RIAC

[1] Ministry of Defence paper JP (59) 163, I January 1960, BNA DEFE 13/99/MO/5/1/5, in Mallinson, William, Cyprus, a Modern History, I.B. Tauris (now Bloomsbury), London and New York, 2005, 2009, 2012, p.49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Memorandum by Prime Minister, 2 January 1964, BNA CAB/129/116, in ibid, Mallinson, William, p.37.

[4] British Embassy, Washington, to Foreign Office, 7 July 1964, telegram 8541, BNA FO 371/174766, file C1205/2/G, in ibid.’, Mallinson, William, p. 37.

[5] Joseph, Joseph S., Cyprus, Ethnic Conflict and International Politics, St Martin’s Press, London and New York, 1997, p. 66.

[6] In 1964, Cuba cut off supplies to the American base at Guantanamo Bay, since the US refused to return it to Cuba, as a result of which the US took measures to make it self-sufficient.

[7] Briefing paper, 18 June 1964, BNA-DO/220/170, file MED 193/105/2, part A. Mallinson,William, Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus, p. 127.

[8] ‘British Interests in the Eastern Mediterranean’, draft paper, 11 April 1975, BNA-FCO 46/1248, file DPI/515/1.

[9] Cabinet paper, 29 September 1976, in op. cit. Mallinson, William, Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus, p.134.

[10] Mallinson, William, Britain and Cyprus: Key Themes and Documents, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2011, and Bloomsbury, London and New York, 2020, pp. 87-121.

[11] Fergusson to Foreign Minister’s Private Secretary, minute, 8 December 1980, BNA-FCO 9/2949, file WSC/023/1, part C.

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Europe

Belarus divorces from the Eastern Partnership: A new challenge for the EU Neighborhood Policy

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The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the Eastern dimension of the EU Neighborhood Policy adopted back in 2009 aimed at deepening relations between Brussels and six Eastern European partners – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EaP has been regarded as a strategic initiative based on mutual interests and common values with a goal of strengthening political and economic relations with those countries, helping them enhance their institutional capacity through sustainable reforms. While increasing stability and paving the way for the sustainable development of those societies, the EU’s overall goal has been to secure its Eastern borders.

Since the very beginning the EaP has been suspiciously viewed by Russia as an attempt of expansion of the sphere of influence and as a first step of EU membership of these countries. Russians point to the EU and NATO ambitious expansion eastward as the main reason for complicated relations and in this context the EaP has been regarded with traditional fears and paranoic perceptions. The Russian hard power approach causes serious problems for the EaP which fails to mitigate security concerns of partner countries and to come up with serious initiatives for conflict settlement. Being a laggard in terms of soft power, the Russian ruling elite has continuously used all hard power foreign policy instruments at its disposal trying to undermine the coherence of the initiative. And the very recent démarche of Belarus to withdraw from the EaP should be seen in this context of confrontation.

On 28th of June, the ministry of foreign affairs of Belarus announced a decision to halt its membership in the EaP as a response to the EU sanctions imposed on Minsk accompanied by the recalling ambassadors from both sides. Actually, this isn’t the first case of the EaP walkout blackmailed by Lukashenko. The first escape was attempted in September-October 2011, but the difficulties were soon resolved and Lukashenko revised his decision. This time situation seems very complicated and these far-reaching tensions may have tough consequences for Lukashenko’s regime. This new group of sectoral sanctions which target banking, oil, telecommunication spheres and also ban the export of potash, is a harsh response from the EU against Lukashneko’s scandalous hijacking activity in May to detain a Belarusian opposition journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich.

Lukashenko’s administration not only challenges the EU Neighborhood Policy and shows no retreat, but also goes forward escalating the situation. Minsk takes high risks freezing the Readmission Agreement signed by the EU. This document is a legal basis for bilateral cooperation aimed at struggling against irregular migration flows. It’s not a secret that the territory of Belarus has been used for illegal migration for the groups from the Middle East to penetrate into neighboring EU member states such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Moreover, Belarus territory has served as a transit route for smuggling circles going from East to West and vice versa.  And now closing eyes on all these channels, Minsk hopes to increase the bargaining power vis-à-vis Brussels. However, given the Western reactions, it seems that this time the EU is resolute.

Despite the fact that Charles Michel, the President of the EU Council, described this withdrawal as “another step backwards” and even threatened that “this will escalate tensions having clear negative impacts”, the EU wants to continue working with the Belarusian society  as Josep Borrel stated. The EU’s determination to keep the bridges alive with the Belarusian people, in spite of Lukashneko’s radical stance, is aimed at preventing further isolationism of Minsk which would benefit only Russia.

In contrast to the increasing level of tensions with the EU, the Russian authorities continue to support Lukasheno’s administration, thus trying to deepen the gap and to bring Belarus under their total influence. Russia uses Belarus in its chessboard with the EU and the USA in Eastern Europe. Last year’s fraud elections and brutal crackdown by Lukashenko left him alone with the only source of power stemming from the Kremlin. Thus the withdrawal from the EaP should be understood not only as a convulsion of the Belarusian authorities in response to the sanctions, but also Russia’s employment of the Belarus card to respond to the recent joint statement of the EU-US summit in Brussels, when both parties declared their intention to stand with the people of Belarus, supporting their demands for human rights and democracy simultaneously criticising Lukashenko’s regime and his reckless political behavior and also criticising Russian’s unacceptable behavior.

So, Lukashenko’s step to quit the EaP can be seen as a well-calculated adulatory sign towards Moscow sacrificing the last remnants of sovereignty in order to receive financial and political lifebuoy amid the increasing crisis in the result of sanctions.  And the recent visit of N. Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, to Minsk right after the withdrawal decision shows Russian inclination to strike while the iron is hot and to abuse the vulnerable situation of Belarus. Patrushev stated that the ultimate goal of foreign powers is to change the power in Belarus and he suggested instead of focusing on internal issues, to bring their forces together against external threats as their influence affects internal developments. For this reason, deeper integration of security and military services of both countries are on the table.

The reaction of opposition leader S. Tikhanovskaya was very rough, stating that this suspension will cut the opportunities of ordinary citizens who benefit from the political and economic outcomes of the EaP. Moreover, she claims that Lukashenko doesn’t have a right to represent Belarus since August 2020 and his decisions don’t have legal consequences for Belarus. This kind of approach is shared by the leadership of Lithuania too, whose president and minister of foreign affairs not only refuse to recognize Lukashenko as a legitimate president, but also highlight the role of the Kremlin in supporting the dictatorial power of Lukashenko in exchange for decreasing sovereignty.

The blackmail of Lukashenko to challenge the EU Eastern Neighborhood Policy  in order to have the sanctions lifted may bring about such kind of precedents with other partnering countries as well. First of all, this concerns Azerbaijan which continues to face serious problems related with human rights, freedom of expression, the problem of Prisoners of War and other traits of authoritarian power. It’s well-known that  human rights issues have been the underwater stones in the EU and Azerbaijan relations and they continue to pose new challenges for Aliyev’s non-democratice regime. Another weak ring of the EaP chain is Armenia. Even though reelected N. Pashinyan is eager to pursue a balanced foreign policy, post-war Armenia still faces serious limitations given its vulnerable dependence on Russia. Besides, Pashinyan’s main rival and the former President R. Kocharyan, whose alliance will be the second largest faction in the newly elected Parliament has recently stated that this new parliament can last up to one and half years and nobody can exclude the possibility of new snap elections. His pro-Russian attitude and anti-Western stance are well-known and in case he becomes a prime-minister, there is no guarantee that he will follow the path of Lukashenko. 

Therefore  the statement of the Austrian MFA, that ”we cannot leave South Caucasus to others” during the  recent official visit of the Austrian, Romanian and Latvian MFA under the mandate of the EU High Representative to the South Caucasus, reminds  about the EU presence in the region and also the fact that the ‘normative power’ can be a source of balance and a status quo changer.

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