EU Presidency warns Turkey to sign Customs Union Protocol
by Gregoris Savvas
Luxembourg, Feb 28 (CNA) - Luxembourg's Prime Minister and President of the European Council Jean Claude Juncker has warned Turkey that she will not commence accession negotiations with the European Union she does not sign the protocol adapting her Customs Union to cover all the bloc's new member states.
Juncker's warning came after a meeting today with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, who is in Luxemburg for a working visit. In his statements, President Papadopoulos reiterated that the recommencement of negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem has always been the priority of the Cypriot government.
Juncker and Papadopoulos discussed issues relating to the decision of December's EU Summit in Brussels to grant Turkey a date, 3 October 2005, to start accession negotiations, the Cyprus question and the financial perspectives of the EU.
''We were discussing some issues which are of great concern both to Cyprus and to the Presidency taking up the development where we have left it during the recent European Council in December 2004, and we were discussing all these issues and items with the willingness to bring all these to a good end both for Cyprus and for the EU,'' Luxembourg's Prime Minister said.
Asked whether Turkey's insistence to sign the Protocol expanding its Customs Union to cover all member states by incorporating in the Protocol a declaration saying it does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, is contradictory to European values, Juncker said that this debate took place during the European Council last December.
''Turkey will have to sign the Protocol and the Cypriot President was explaining in the course of the last meeting of the European Council how this has to be understood,'' he added.
Replying to a question regarding the Luxembourg Presidency's actions with a view to persuade Turkey to sign the Protocol, Juncker said ''we really explained to Turkey that there is a general expectation from the members of the European Union that Turkey will sing the Protocol as soon as possible.''
''There is no way for commencing negotiations without having Turkey having sign this Protocol,'' he pointed out.
Replying to a question about the intentions of the Luxembourg Presidency regarding the two European Commission regulations for the Turkish Cypriots, namely the financial regulation and the regulation for direct trade, Juncker said ''we are of the opinion that what has been agreed should be implemented and we do think that the discussion concerning the two regulations is a discussion whish has to be pursued.''
Asked whether the Luxemburg Presidency intends to promote the regulation for financial aid to the Turkish Cypriots, which has been agreed by the EU, Juncker replied ''we will bring it to the table if the time has come to bring it to the table.''
In his statements, President Papadopoulos said ''we spoke about the progress we want to make towards the recommencement of the talks for the solution of the Cyprus problem.''
''This is always our priority,'' he added, noting that ''we have also in the mean time to deal with various issues which emanate as a result of the decision of the Council in December 2004 that Turkey should be given a date for starting accession negotiations.''
Referring to the financial perspectives, which must be agreed upon by the EU leaders by the end of the Luxembourg Presidency's term, which expires at the end of June, President Papadopoulos said ''it is our view that unless great progress is made during the presidency of Luxembourg there maybe great difficulties in concluding an agreement on the financial perspectives.'' ''So we promised to work very closely and support any initiative the Presidency of Luxembourg is going to take on that subject,'' the President added.
President Papadopoulos also noted that ''Cyprus has claims,'' adding that he realises ''how difficult it is to satisfy them.''
He also explained that Cyprus is one of the countries that had not received any pre-accession assistance, noting that Cyprus was excluded from a number of schemes because of the regulations of the European Union concerning per capita income.
''We hope that compromises may be found so as to get a better deal in the next period of the financial perspectives,'' the President added.