LONDON (International Herald Tribune)–The European Union warned Turkey on Monday that it must recognize Cyprus soon if it wants to begin talks to join the Union in October. The view reflects mounting concern within the EU that Turkey may not meet its promise to tacitly recognize Cyprus–which was the condition agreed to by EU leaders last December for talks to begin on Oct. 3 this year.
"The member states of the European Union expect Turkey to sign the protocol regarding the adaptation of the Ankara agreement as soon as possible," said Jean-Claude Juncker–prime minister of Luxembourg–which currently holds the EU presidency.
"There is no possibility for Ankara to start commenting on what has already been negotiated," he added after talks in Luxembourg with President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus. After tense negotiations at a summit meeting with EU leaders last December–Turkey agreed to tacitly recognize Cyprus–although at the time Turkey insisted that did not represent formal political recognition.
Ankara agreed to sign a protocol that extended an existing customs union with the EU to the 10 new countries that joined the EU last May–including Cyprus. The landmark agreement appeared to end months of uncertainty about whether Europeans could accept Turkey within the EU’s borders. It also appeared to pave the way for Turkey to join the Union at the end of negotiations–which were set to last for 10 to 15 years. But since December–Ankara has not moved to sign the protocol–leading EU officials Monday to warn that a delay jeopardized the December agreement.
"Obviously the protocol has to be ratified before it can enter into force. If Turkey does not sign soon we will have a problem with the ratification process," a spokesman for the Luxembourg government said. "The clock is ticking."
Earlier Monday–Nicolas Schmit–the foreign affairs and immigration minister of Luxembourg–said that Turkey’s EU membership efforts had lost momentum. "After the Brussels summit there has been a loss of enthusiasm," he said during a visit to Turkey. "That has created certain worries" about Ankara’s determination to join the EU–Schmit said in a television interview ahead of a meeting with Abdullah Gul–the Turkish foreign minister. "We cannot say there has been a very good atmosphere" in Turkey–Schmit said.
Schmit underlined the necessity for Turkey to continue its pro-European momentum and to fully implement the reforms already proposed by Turkey in its campaign to join the EU. However–Abdullah said Monday that EU membership remained Turkey’s "top priority."The process of democratization will be followed with the same determination," Gul was quoted as saying by the Turkish news agency Anatolia.
During the past five years–Turkey has undertaken a raft of reforms to meet requiremen’s for EU membership. However–it has stopped short of recognizing Cyprus–a key condition for EU countries. Cyprus has been divided since 1974–when Turkey occupied the northern part of the island following a Greek Cypriot coup that sought to unite the island with Greece.
In December–EU countries agreed that the final goal of negotiations with Turkey would be membership of the EU but they offered no guarantees that the talks would necessarily end in Turkey joining the EU. They also stipulated that Turkey could face strict long-term restrictions on the migration of Turks into Western Europe. The safeguards would be the toughest yet faced by a nation aspiring to join the EU. The Union also said it would break off talks if Ankara broke promises on human rights and democratic reforms.