EU Commissioner urges Turkey to sign protocol, pledges more active role on Cyprus
Nicosia, Mar 8 (CNA) -- European Union Commissioner responsible for enlargement Olli Rehn has called on Turkey to sign, in good time, the protocol to its customs union agreement with the EU extending it to all ten new members, including Cyprus, and pointed out that this is attached to the start of accession negotiations, set for 3 October this year.
Addressing Turkish business leaders in Istanbul, he said the Commission continues to support the resumption of talks for a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus, under the UN auspices, adding that it is ready to play an active role to prepare the ground for this aim.
''I trust that Turkey will fulfill its commitment by signing in good time the protocol adapting the Ankara Agreement to the accession of the new member states. This is important since this was attached by the European Council to the start of accession negotiations,'' he stressed.
On Cyprus, he said that the opening of the new chapter in EU-Turkey relations offers fresh opportunities to improve relations with the Republic of Cyprus.
''I am convinced that the business community can make a very positive contribution by fostering closer contacts between the two communities on the island and with Turkey,'' he added.
Rhen noted ''a clear desire'' on the part of the Turkish Cypriot community to be reunited and fully integrated into the EU and added ''I know about the current stalemate among our member states which prevents adoption of the Commission proposals for trade and aid, but I remain confident that we will be able to overcome such disagreements''.
On efforts to resume negotiations for a Cyprus settlement, the Commissioner said that in the next few months we must create a new momentum that should be used to take new initiatives on a comprehensive Cyprus settlement.
''The Commission indeed continues to support the resumption of talks under the auspices of the United Nations. We are ready to play an active role to prepare the ground for this aim,'' he added.
The Commissioner said that the process of analytical examination of EU legislation, commonly called ''screening'', will start right after the formal opening of the accession negotiations.
Rhen called on Ankara to show zero tolerance towards torture, broaden political reform to facilitate development in the southeast of the country, stabilise its economy and warned that the road ahead towards accession, will be ''long, sometimes uneven and winding.'
The Commissioner said Turkey has fallen short of meeting its obligations with regard to the Customs Union, something he said was ''unacceptable''.
On EU pre-accession assistance, he said Ankara is set to get 500 million euro per annum by the end of 2006, a sum that would increase in subsequent years, while the EU has already granted assistance worth 1 billion euro in recent years.
On political reforms in the country, Rehn insisted on their continuation with the same pace and intensity as in previous months and told them that the policy of zero tolerance towards torture should be enforced through determined efforts at all levels of the Turkish state to get away with the remaining instances of torture.
He urged Turkey to stabilise and reform its economy, noting that the opening of accession negotiations would improve the climate for the inflow of foreign direct investment.
''Despite the overall success of the Customs Union which is celebrating this year its 10th anniversary, there are still unfortunately many unfulfilled commitments by the Turkish side, which is unacceptable,'' he stressed, and referred to ''evident breaches'' of the Customs Union Agreement as regards intellectual property rights in pharmaceuticals and requirements to obtain import licenses in telecommunications.
On financial assistance, he said in recent years, more than 1 billion euro in grant assistance has already been allocated to Turkey and by the end of the current Financial Perspectives (2006), the budget for pre-accession assistance to Turkey will reach 500 million euro per annum, making Turkey one of the largest recipients of EU external assistance in the world.
''Further increases are foreseen in subsequent years,'' he said.
On EU and Turkish concerns in view of accession, Rhen said European concerns can be duly addressed in the course of the negotiations while Turkish concerns focus on the true EU intentions towards Turkey's accession.