Commission protocol ready for Turkey to sign
by Nicos Bellos
Brussels, Feb 3 (CNA) -- The European Commission has prepared a protocol for Turkey's customs union with the ten new EU members, including the Republic of Cyprus, and awaits the Turkish government to come forward and meet its obligations by signing it.
Director of the European Commission's Enlargement Directorate B for Candidate Countries, Pierre Mirel, told a meeting of the Joint EU-Turkey Parliamentary Committee yesterday that the protocol was a legal document, for which there were various legal opinions as to whether its signing would mean the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus or not.
Replying to questions raised at the meeting by Cypriot MEPs Yiannakis Matsis, Marios Matsakis and Kyriakos Triantafyllides, the Commission official said the signing of the protocol by Ankara would definitely lead to the lifting of the restrictions Turkey had imposed on Cyprus, especially regarding the approach of ships flying the Cypriot flag to Turkish ports, and the flights of Cypriot aircraft over Turkey.
Mirel pointed out the last European Council's decision, on 17 December 2004, that Turkey was committed to signing the protocol before it begins accession negotiations on 3 October 2005.
Responding to other questions the Commission official avoided to take a stance on the occupation of an EU member-state's territory by a candidate country (Turkey), as in the case of Cyprus, the northern third of which is under Turkish occupation since 1974.
Invited to comment on the Cyprus problem, Mirel said initiatives to reach a settlement belonged to the United Nations.