By Andria Kades
THE news that President Nicos Anastasiades was moving to make Turkish an official language of the European Union has been hailed by the Turkish Cypriots but for the most part, met with silence from rejectionist parties yesterday.
Baris Burcu, spokesman for Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci hailed the move saying this “is an initiative of good will” and confirming the matter was discussed during the last meeting between the two leaders.
According to a Turkish Cypriot news agency, Burcu said: “In case a solution is reached, Turkish will be one of the official languages of the future federation” which is what the leaders are working to achieve.
Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis newspaper reported positive reactions to the development. Quoting Armagan Candan a ‘deputy’ with the Republican Turkish Party he said this will be raised with EU officials next week during meetings and this was incredibly important for Turkish Cypriots.
Ali Erel, chairman of the Cyprus EU Association in the north, said, according to the paper this step would reap many benefits allowing Turkish and Turkish Cypriots to have the opportunity for work within the EU.
Burcu said however the move should have been implemented when Cyprus began the process to join the EU 12 years ago but it was better late than never, or in Turkish ‘let it be late not difficult’.
‘Deputy’ with the National Unity Party Hamza Ersan Saner, echoed the spokesman’s words saying, according to the paper, Greek Cypriots did what they should have done years ago, but despite this, the good intentions were positive.
Greek Cypriot opposition parties however maintained their silence with only rejectionist EDEK mentioning it in a statement chastising Anastasiades’ ‘consent’ of “upgrading Akinci’s status” in Davos.
“Unfortunately without there even being inclinations of good will from Turkey for the Cyprus problem, the President of the Republic and the government of Cyprus continuously give gifts to Turkey whether they concern her future European prospects, or the settler usurpers of Greek Cypriot property or the upgrading of the pseudo state or even the request to include Turkish as an official EU language.”
THE PREVIOUS ATTEMPT THAT DIDN’T PAN OUT
BACK IN 2000, when Cyprus was in the midst of negotiations to join the EU, there was a concrete three year plan costing just short of €3.5 million to translate the acquis communautaire to Turkish in a bid to encourage the involvement of Turkish Cypriots in the accession process.
The cost would have been jointly funded by the EU and Cyprus.
Although at the time, some 180,000 pages of documents were going to be translated Costas Apostolides, who was the project coordinator at the time, told the Cyprus Mail he estimates the documents must have doubled by now.
However about a quarter of the work has already been undertaken by Turkey, as part of an EU – Turkey customs union agreement in force since the end of 1995, which “they would have to make available,” he said.
Back in 2000, the plan was for both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to be involved. However the bulk of the work, for practical reasons would have been undertaken by Turkish Cypriots, preferably lawyers fluent in both Turkish and English due to the serious nature of the legalese which was set to be translated.
The same is likely to apply this time around, Apostolides said.
An address by the coordinator at the time, before a panel on “Market of Languages – Languages of the Market” organised by the European Parliament in Brussels outlined the “concept of language as a means of facilitating peace is fundamental to the language policy of the Republic of Cyprus.”
The island has two official languages Greek and Turkish.
Each country, before it joins, specifies which language it wants to have used as an official language for EU purposes. Not every language that has official status domestically is put forward for official EU status. The country’s initial decision may be changed later — provided all the other national governments agree.
In his address to EU parliament Apostolides said “the issue of whether or not Turkish will be requested by Cyprus to be an official EU language will not arise until the final stages of the accession process but the work involved in translating the acquis has to be addressed now.”
The plan however, did not move forward due to “Turkish pressures” he said yesterday.
Although the EU council was keen and Turkish Cypriot groups indicated interest, their leadership at the time had not responded positively.
An article by Turkish paper Milliyet in the same year quoted a high level Turkish diplomat saying the EU commission’s action was “not sensible” and “created a dilemma” as it consolidated a view the “Greek Cypriot administration is the sole representative on the island.”
The polar opposite reaction as seen in Turkish Cypriot press on Wednesday was an indication of the changing climate.