Cyprus said on Monday it would not end its opposition to Turkish accession negotiations with the EU, saying the reasons it had blocked chapters in the first place remained valid.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a joint news conference in Istanbul with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davugotlu on Sunday that her country “is ready this year to open Chapter 17 (economic policy), and make preparations for 23 and 24. We can talk about the details,” she added.
Chapters 23 and 24 are part of the eight blocked by Cyprus.
Merkel’s proposal was part of a deal Germany is seeking with Turkey for its more assistance in tackling the EU’s migrant crisis.
President Nicos Anastasiades said on Monday night he would be meeting with Merkel over the next few days during the European People’s Party in Madrid and would discuss the matter of the chapters with the German Chancellor.
He reminded that he had sent proposals to former Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu for a confidence building measure that offered to remove the obstacles to Turkey’s accession and which would have seen Ankara normalise relations with the Cyprus Republic. This would have paved the way to lift Nicosia`s ban on Turkey`s negotiating chapters. But, he added: “I am not certain that such an issue is being raised right now.”
Commenting on a phrase by Merkel, that she would try to persuade Nicosia, the President responded: “I am sure she will try to persuade Turkey as well on what I have just said”.
European Union leaders last week pledged to ‘re-energise’ long-stalled accession negotiations with Ankara in return for its help in tackling a migration crisis. This notions was strengthened on Sunday by Merkel’s comments.
Asked in Istanbul how the EU could convince the Greek Cypriots when it came to opening chapters, Merkel acknowledged that the approval of all member states was needed to open chapters but said they would also offer support to Cyprus, but she said the main issue right now was to resolve the migrant situation. She did not elaborate in what context or how, support would be offered.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told Greek state broadcaster NET: “The reasons they (the negotiations) were frozen have not ceased to exist. As things presently stand, we cannot give our consent (to their resumption).” He referred specifically to two chapters (23,24), or policy areas in accession negotiations, concerning the judiciary and fundamental rights, and justice, freedom and security.
Turkey has refused to implement the Additional or ‘Ankara’ Protocol with the EU, which would require the Turkish government to remove all discriminatory obstacles towards Cyprus as a member state.
The Turkish ban on Cypriot air and sea traffic is a major aspect of the protocol, and the delay in implementing it for Cyprus, has since 2006, prevented any movement on eight chapters necessary for Turkey to move forward with its EU accession.
Kasoulides, told CNA in Athens later on Monday that Turkey was not taking the necessary action which would allow Cyprus lift its ban on chapters 23 and 24. He acknowledged that many EU member states would like to see these chapters opened.
“Many EU states are concerned about the refugee crisis, and I see a certain change in their attitude towards the opening of these negotiating chapters. I believe this is due to a wrong perception about ways to resolve the refugee crisis and what Ankara can actually offer in this direction,” the Minister said replying to questions.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Monday: “It is up to Turkey to proceed with concrete actions in order to make it possible to open more chapters.”
As far as Chapters 23 and 24 were concerned, the spokesman said Anastasiades had proposed to the Turkish side that Varosha be returned to all its rightful residents and relations be normalised with Cyprus “which would allow Nicosia to look into the possibility of examining the opening these two chapters,” he added.
Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the European Union Kornelios Korneliou told CyBC on Monday night that in at least one of the vetoed chapters – that deals with free movement of labour – Cyprus had the backing of Germany and France.
“If Turkey at this moment, where it is renewing its relations with the European Union starts to play by the rules of the game – because we can’t forget that the EU is an organisation and a community of values and we can’t ignore the legal framework – then I believe this will positively affect procedures to resolve the Cyprus problem,” he said.
“Due to the changing situation with Turkey being in the centre of talks over the immigration crisis, “almost all (EU) member states are prepared to renew relations between the EU and Turkey and we need to review our positions and see where and how we can proceed.”