THE POLITICAL establishment appeared united in its opposition to the resumption of Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU, which has surfaced now that Chancellor Angela Merkel is making strenuous efforts to secure Ankara’s co-operation in dealing with the refugee crisis. During her visit to Istanbul on Sunday, Merkel said her country was ready to open chapter 17 and make preparations for the opening of chapters 23 and 24 which are among eight blocked by the Cyprus government over Turkey’s refusal to lift its ban on Cyprus sea and air traffic.
Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides said the reasons the negotiations were frozen “have not ceased to exist and as things stand we cannot give our consent” to their resumption. President Anastasiades was more flexible, saying he would discuss the issue when he met Merkel this week in Madrid. Merkel acknowledged that the approval of all member-states was needed to open chapters but said support would be offered to Cyprus, without elaborating. In Cyprus, all the political parties took a defiant stand, insisting that the government should not give its consent to the opening of the chapters, lambasting Ankara’s arrogance.
They were correct in principle, but there was no need for the grandstanding and the defiant rhetoric, which once again showed that emotion rather and rationality rules public life. It also showed that after 11 years of EU membership they have not understood that members-states are not equal. With regard to Turkey, the most powerful member of the Union has decided the resumption of accession negotiations as a way of securing Turkey’s co-operation in dealing with the biggest problem currently facing the EU – the refugee crisis. Berlin is so desperate for this co-operation Merkel has also offered financial assistance in excess of a billion euro and visa-free travel in the EU for Turkish nationals, which had always been a big no-no for Germany.
Are our politicians being pragmatic in believing Cyprus would be able to stand in Germany’s way if the only thing preventing a deal with Turkey on the refugees was the opening of the chapters? Turkey is calling the shots and it seems highly unlikely – if not impossible – that the Cyprus government would be able to keep blocking the chapters, once Germany and the rest of the EU’s big players have decided they should be opened. In fact Merkel appears to have already taken the decision, in saying preparations would be made for the opening of chapters 23 and 24, in the certainty that any objections by Cyprus would be swept aside.
What would the government do in such a case now that it has raised the stakes so high? It can only hope that no deal is reached with Turkey, because it is the only way to avoid the embarrassment.