Rehn: Commission to submit recommendations if Turkey fails to meet obligations
Brussels, Nov 22 - The European Commission is ready to submit its recommendations in case Turkey fails until the beginning of December to meet its EU obligations, implement the additional protocol of the Ankara Agreement and open its ports and airports to the Republic of Cyprus, said EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn.
In a speech before the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Rehn said that Turkey is expected to ensure full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Ankara Protocol and remove obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions of transport.
“If Turkey does not fulfill its obligations, the Commission will make relevant recommendations ahead of the General Affairs Council in December”, he said.
Mr. Rehn noted that the Finnish EU Presidency has made substantial diplomatic efforts to ensure that Turkey meets its obligations under the Customs Union Protocol, adding that the European Commission fully supports these efforts to unblock the current stalemate.
He warned that “it is the last opportunity to make serious progress for some years to come”.
The Finnish formula, Mr. Rehn said, would create a genuine win-win situation for both communities and all parties concerned, and would be a major confidence-building measure towards a comprehensive settlement, “which we and the UN call for”.
“On a parallel track, and without this being linked to Turkey's obligations, the Presidency intends to find a solution on another deadlock which is the Commission proposal from July 2004, aiming to enable direct trade between the Turkish Cypriot Community and the rest of the EU”, he said.
Referring to Turkish Foreign Minister’s statement that the deadline given by the Commission to Ankara to meet its obligations constitutes a “blackmail”, Rehn said ''we need less talk about blackmail and red lines. It is, I find, rather outdated talk.''
He recalled that ''last Friday, UN Under-Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari wrote to the leaders of the two communities'', expressing his disappointment on the lack of progress, saying “and I share the disappointment of the UN”.
“The stepwise approach proposed by Gambari is a good basis for both communities in Cyprus to re-engage in serious work leading to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, so urgently needed”, the Commissioner added.
He called upon the leaders of both communities in Cyprus to “react positively and constructively to the proposals of Mr Gambari. The key of the solution to the Cyprus issue is in their hands,” he noted.
Rehn expressed the view that the December European Council should call for a resumption of the talks on a comprehensive settlement under the UN auspices.
He noted that ''it is in the EU’s interest to see a reunification of the island and the end of the over 40 years-old conflict on European soil.''
“Such division is unacceptable within our European Union, which is founded on the principles of peace, reconciliation and human rights. Recalling these basics is all the more justified as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome”, he said.
EU member state Cyprus, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
In April 2004 a UN envisaged plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem was approved by the Turkish Cypriot community but rejected by the Greek Cypriots who deemed that it did not lead to the real reunification of the island.
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Talat agreed on July 8th 2006, during a meeting in the presence of UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day-to-day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.
Turkey, a country aspiring to enter the EU refuses to recognise the Republic of Cyprus and to open its ports and airports to Cyprus (Customs Union Protocol), a precondition for EU membership.
The Finnish EU presidency has given Turkey time until the sixth of December to implement the Customs Union Protocol or face consequences.