By Jean Christou
Cyprus on Monday described the outcome of the EU-Turkey summit as positive not only in terms of the action plan on migrants but also in terms of the political messages that had emerged for Ankara as regards its accession course, and Cyprus.
The EU agreed to give Turkey €3 billion to handle the migrant crisis plus a promise to open discussions on Chapter 17 – economy – and also to prepare other chapters for discussion. Visa-free travel to Europe in 2016 is also on the cards.
Chapter 17 was not among those being blocked by Cyprus, which has put the freeze on Chapters 2, Freedom of Movement for Workers; 15, Energy; 23, Judiciary and Fundamental Rights; 24, Justice, Freedom and Security; 26, Education and Culture and 31, Foreign, Security and Defence Policy.
An additional eight chapters have been blocked by the EU because Turkey refuses to extend the Ankara Protocol to include Cyprus – opening its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic.
And though the EU said it would open Chapter 17 on December 14, the joint agreement does not mention which others might be opened next, only that “the preparatory work for the opening of a number of chapters without prejudice to the position of Member States” would be carried, leaving Cyprus’ position intact for the moment.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said during the post-summit news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU Council President Donald Tusk on Sunday that Chapter 24 could be one of those looked at but the differences and divergences of views that remained regarding that chapter would have to be overcome first.
Tusk also made it clear that Turkey was not getting “a free ride”. “One thing must be clear. Both sides [Turkey and the EU] have committed to stepping up the tempo but the benchmarks and standards will remain the same,” he said.
Another political message seen as positive for Cyprus were comments by Davutoglu during the news conference where for the first time it looked as if Ankara was accepting that its EU path was linked to the Cyprus issue.
He said Turkey’s aim was to open as many chapters as possible along with parallel reforms as required by the bloc, adding: “If we are able to solve the Cyprus question in the next months, and it’s going quite well, Turkey’s membership will not be a dream that is in the future but a reality in the coming years,” Davutoglu said.
Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides, who also pointed this out on Monday said: “We believe that in general the results are positive both in terms of some of the details of this action plan – those agreed between the two sides – but also in terms of political messages that emerged.”
A statement from the presidential palace earlier in the day said Cyprus also welcomed the support from the leaders of fellow member states in reminding Ankara during the summit of its obligations towards the Republic of Cyprus.
In a written statement submitted during the summit, Nicosia said it recognised the need for collective action to tackle the refugee crisis but noted that Turkey`s EU accession course depended on the implementation of its obligations vis-à-vis the EU and all of its member states. Following some domestic criticism over Cyprus’ financial contribution to the €3bn for the migrant action plan, the government said the contribution was not obligatory.
Christodoulides said Cyprus was high on the agenda during the summit. He described Tusk’s statements that as far as requirements for enlargement were concerned, nothing had changed, as “very important”.
He also said that those head of states who had spoken at the summit had all mentioned the need for Turkey “through concrete actions” to help resolve the Cyprus problem in order to strengthen its EU accession process. “And this is something that we welcome”, he added.
Greek Cypriot political parties, bar ruling DISY and AKEL were critical of the developments on Monday. DIKO said Cyprus had suffered a big defeat at the hand of Turkey in Brussels. “The most dangerous aspect however, is the fact that the Anastasiades government is pleased with the developments,” the party said.
By Jean Christou