Finland warns Ankara over Cyprus deadline
Helsinki, Jun 30 - (Taken from EurActiv.com) - Turkey has until the end of the year to recognise Cyprus under the EU-Turkey customs union agreement, the incoming EU Presidency has warned.
Weeks only after the EU opened the first chapter of accession negotiations with Turkey, the Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister, Erkki Tuomioja, has reminded Turkey about its obligations towards EU member state Cyprus.
"The issue is clear," said Tuomioja on Thursday (29 June) as he presented the programme of the Presidency which starts on Saturday for a six-month period. "Everybody in the Union waits for Turkey to ratify the additional protocol, otherwise there could be consequences," for EU accession talks, he said, adding: "the end of the year is the deadline".
The EU and Turkey have agreed to a customs union in 1995. The agreement was extended to the EU's ten new member states, including Cyprus, with the so-called Ankara protocol in July 2004. But it has still to ratify the protocol and continues to block access to Cypriot ships and airplanes from its territory.
In an interview with Finnish news agency STT on 28 June, EU enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn also warned Ankara about "a possible collision in negotiations, unless Turkey holds to its commitments on Cyprus" and opens its ports and airports to Cyprus traffic.
Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would rather accept a standstill in negotiations than to make concessions to Cyprus. "So long as the Turkish Cypriots remain isolated, we will not open our ports and airports. If the (EU) negotiations halt, then let them halt".