Rehn warns Turkey: failure to implement obligations will affect EU talk
Nicosia, Nov 8 - If there is a will, there is the way to create a win-win situation for everybody in the Eastern Mediterranean, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn stressed on Wednesday and called upon all member states and Turkey to focus all their energy and efforts to support the Finnish formula.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels after the release of the European Commission's Progress Report for candidate countries and potential candidates, Mr. Rehn noted that for Turkey “failure to implement its obligations will affect the overall progress in the negotiations”.
Turkey, he said, “has not fully implemented the additional Protocol of the Ankara Agreement”, adding that it is expected to ensure full implementation on the Ankara Protocol and remove obstacles to the free movement of goods including restrictions of transport.
The Commissioner added that the Finnish Presidency has made substantial diplomatic efforts to ensure that Turkey meets the obligations under the Protocol and fully supports “these efforts to unblock the current stalemate concerning Cyprus”.
He called upon all member states and Turkey to focus all their energy and efforts to support this proposal, the Finnish formula. “This is likely to be the last opportunity to make real serious progress for some years to come on the issue of Cyprus”, Mr. Rehn stressed.
“We decided today the Commission will make relevant recommendations to the European Council in December if Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations”, Mr. Rehn remarked.
Regarding Cyprus he said that Turkey has continued to actively support the efforts of the United Nations to reach a comprehensive settlement.
Asked if the Commission is actually sending to Turkey an ultimatum saying that if by the middle of December it does not apply the Ankara protocol negotiations will be suspended, Mr. Rehn replied: “Our position is very clear on this. The Finnish Presidency is very committed to trying to unfreeze or de-block the situation with Cyprus. I’ve said several times that we fully support the efforts which have been made. We could ask ourselves why should we suddenly act like a bull in a china shop and make a recommendation that these efforts should be continued. We don’t want anything to disrupt the efforts being made by the Presidency. But I don’t think it is the right time to make a recommendation but at the same time our decision clearly states that we will be making a recommendation on this if Turkey does not fulfill its obligations regarding the Ankara Protocol. We are going to take a decision before the December Council if Turkey does not meet its obligations.”
Asked if the Finnish proposals will be accepted unless modifications such as the inclusion of the illegal Ercan airport in the Turkish – occupied north of Cyprus are included in the proposals the Commissioner said all member states and Turkey should now really concentrate their minds, focus their energy in achieving a solution which could also improve the political climate in the Eastern Mediterranean and facilitate a resumption of talks on a comprehensive settlement.
“I am sure if there is the will there is the way and we can create a win-win situation for everybody in the Eastern Mediterranean and I refuse to believe that there is no such concept as a win-win situation in the Eastern Mediterranean”, he said.
Asked how negotiations can open on issues such as customs union, transport and the free movement of goods if Turkey does not open its ports, he reiterated support on the Finnish formula. “I just want to remind all of us the EU declaration of 21st of September 2005 makes a reference to two things when considering the impact of a failure to meet obligations to relevant chapters, relevant to the customs union and to the overall progress of negotiations. Let us focus on plan A than resort to any kind of plan B because all plan Bs would be between bad and worse”, he said.
Regarding reforms in Turkey Mr. Rehn said that in the public debate one may get the impression that Turkey is backtracking, noting however that this is not the case. Turkey has continued political reforms even though the pace has slowed down during the past year.
Recently the reform work has been relaunched, he said which includes pieces of legislation such as creating an ombudsman.
“We state clearly in our progress report on Turkey that further reforms are needed in particularly to ensure the freedom of expression and other fundamental freedoms”, he said, adding that concerning free speech there is an open and intense debate currently going on in the Turkish civil society on article 301, which calls for amendment.