(Bloomberg)–European Union governmen’s failed for the third time this month to overcome a split over Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus–imperiling plans to start membership talks on October 3.
Diplomats from the EU’s 25 nations remained deadlocked over a response to Turkey’s diplomatic boycott of Cyprus–which joined the bloc last year. The dispute is distracting EU attention from a negotiating plan for Turkey that needs the backing of all member nations.
"There was a wide-ranging and difficult discussion," Stavros Papagianneas–a spokesman for the Cypriot mission to the EU–said by telephone in Brussels today. Other EU nations "showed understanding for the Cypriot positions."
The Turkish government in July said its signature of a protocol extending a European trade accord to Cyprus didn’t amount to recognition of the Mediterranean island–whose northern tier Turkey has occupied since 1974. Signing the protocol was a condition set by the EU last December for starting decade-long membership talks.
The Turkish declaration increased skepticism in European capitals about offering entry to Turkey–which would be one of the two most populous EU nations along with Germany–and the bloc’s first mainly Muslim member that would widen the EU’s borders to Iraq.
Opposition to enlargement in nations like France has grown since 10 countries–including Cyprus– joined last year and French and Dutch voters rejected the European constitution — meant to help the EU function better with more members–three and a half months ago.
EU diplomats are divided over the wording of a declaration that would urge Turkey to ensure free trade with Cyprus while seeking a normalization of political ties. Earlier efforts to approve a text failed on September 2 and 7.
"We have not yet reached a consensus," said Jonathan Allen–a spokesman for the British government–current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency. Negotiations will resume September 21–he said.
The EU is moving closer to an accord–according to the UK and Cyprus. "We hope to reach an agreement soon," said Papagianneas of the Cypriot mission.
Cyprus joined the EU without the Turkish-speaking north because voters in the Greek-speaking southern republic rejected a United Nations-backed unification plan.
The Turkish government wants to prevent the EU from imposing new entry conditions and has threatened to withdraw its membership bid should the bloc do so. Turkey–a nation of 72 million people–is counting on the accession talks to attract record foreign investment to its $300 billion economy.
The European Commission–the EU’s executive arm in Brussels–pressed for the start of membership talks with Turkey yesterday.
Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said national governmen’s would have dozens of veto chances later on and entry negotiations would encourage a settlement of the Cyprus problem as well as economic reforms in Turkey.