By Staff Reporter
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades is in Madrid for the European People’s Party (EPP) congress, where he will deliver a speech on Thursday on the role of Europe in regional conflicts and try to allay fears at home that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pressure Cyprus to back down on some chapters that are blocking Turkey’s EU accession.
Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said that at the congress, which began on Wednesday and ends on Friday, president Anastasiades is set to hold separate meetings with state leaders.
The president, Papadopoulos said, is to deliver a speech on the “European prospects and the preventive role Europe can play in regional conflicts”.
The main focus of the congress is the refugee crisis Europe faces due to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and how to overcome the challenges created from the swarms of refugees pouring into western Europe.
With many refugees and migrants now trapped in deteriorating conditions in the Balkans, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called an extraordinary meeting of several European leaders to take place on Sunday.
Juncker invited the leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.
“In view of the unfolding emergency in the countries along the Western Balkans migratory route, there is a need for much greater cooperation, more extensive consultation and immediate operational action,” the commission said in a statement.
Two boatloads landed at the British military base of Akrotiri on Wednesday, the first such arrivals on the island.
Before his departure, Anastasiades, had said he would meet Merkel in Madrid, to discuss comments she made on Sunday in Istanbul that she would push Turkey’s EU accession forward in exchange for help in tackling the EU migrant crisis by opening some chapters that are currently blocked by Cyprus.
Andros Kyprianou, the head of the main opposition party AKEL, met in Brussels with the chairman of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, state broadcaster CyBC reported.
Kyprianou reportedly discussed with Schulz Turkey’s EU accession and argued that it would be unfair at this point for Cyprus to be pressured to accept the opening of chapters without first the other party honouring its obligations.
On Monday, the government said 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. Chancellor Merkel said at a joint news conference in Istanbul with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davugotlu a day earlier 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 more assistance in tackling the EU’s migrant crisis.
“The reasons they (the negotiations) were frozen have not ceased to exist,” Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides told Greek state broadcaster NET.
“As things presently stand, we cannot give our consent (to their resumption).”
EU leaders last week pledged renewed consideration of the long-stalled accession talks with Ankara, cash and easier visa terms in return for its help in tackling the migration crisis.
Almost half a million people, including many Syrians fleeing war in their homeland, have entered Europe this year, mainly crossing from Turkey to Greece. Turkey itself has provided shelter for some 2.2 million Syrian refugees.
Kasoulides referred specifically to two ‘chapters’, or policy areas, in the accession negotiations which Cyprus has vetoed, concerning the judiciary and fundamental rights, and justice, freedom and security.
Cyprus has also blocked the chapters on energy, where Turkey has attempted to challenge Cyprus’ right to explore for oil and gas in a region which has recently yielded some of the world’s biggest natural gas finds in a decade.
Apart from Cyprus, some other EU member states have been at best lukewarm about the possible future admission of Turkey, a large, mainly Muslim nation that borders unstable, conflict-riven countries such as Syria and Iraq.
On the other hand, Turkey’s Foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu said there was no link between stalled EU accession negotiations and the migrant crisis, according to an article published in daily Hurriyet.
The newspaper quoted the Turkish foreign minister as ruling out arguments linking the country’s long-stalled EU membership bid and recent contacts between Ankara and Brussels for deeper cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe, the paper said.
“One thing is certain, Turkey’s negotiations for full EU membership will be revived,” Sinirlioğlu said. He said Turkey needed to show the EU it was not a country which could “tactically” benefit from short-term goals.
“Turkey’s EU membership and the Syrian refugee issue are two separate issues. However, they [EU member states] need to see that Turkey is important for Europe in regards to the refugee issue,” Sinirlioğlu said.
With regard to Cyprus blocking accession chapters, Hurriyet quoted diplomatic sources as saying: “The negotiation process in Cyprus is underway. Either a peace agreement will be signed in March and the issue will be resolved via the holding of a referendum or the current situation will be recognised as a solution by the international community if the Greek Cypriot side rejects [the agreement]. This means that no obstacle will remain in front of Turkey’s negotiation process.”