EU's Rehn Presses Turkey to Ratify Cyprus Protocol
By Mark Bentley in Ankara
Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union urged Turkey to speed up the implementation of laws designed to win membership of the EU, including a protocol extending a free trade accord to Cyprus and nine other nations that joined the trade bloc last year.
The EU expects Turkey's parliament to ratify the protocol "without delay and in good faith,'' EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said at a news conference in Turkey's capital Ankara today, after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Turkey then must fully implement the agreement, he said.
Divisions between the EU and Turkey over Cyprus almost derailed the Oct. 3 start of membership negotiations with the mostly Muslim nation. The European Parliament on Sept. 28 told Turkey to lift a ban on Cypriot airplanes and ships or risk a halt to the EU entry process.
"There's no need to rush'' the trade agreement through the nation's parliament, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told NTV television in an interview late yesterday. The EU must move to lift a trade embargo on Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus before Turkey meets the EU's demand to open its ports to Greek Cypriot ships, Erdogan said.
Turkey is relying on the membership talks with the European Union to attract foreign investment to its $300 billion economy and to reduce the jobless rate of 9.1 percent.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern tier of the island in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Turkey says the EU has failed to implement regulations pledged last year to release financial aid to northern Cyprus and end the three-decade trade embargo on the region.
"I expect that the Council of the European Union will restart work soon in order to have these regulations adopted,'' Rehn said. "It is now in the hands of the British presidency.''
Turkey's government in July signed the extension to the trade accord, fulfilling the last step that the EU had demanded before negotiations on membership could start. Turkey has said its signature of the protocol doesn't require it to open its airports and ports to Cypriot planes and ships.
"The customs union agreement between Turkey and the 25 members of the EU is already working in a functional manner, goods are being circulated, bought and sold,'' Gul told today's news conference. "If there are any problems then we can work to resolve them in the relevant platforms of the European Union.''