A DEAL between Turkey and the EU over the refugee crisis appears to be all but agreed. EU leaders welcomed Turkey’s offer to take back all refugees who entered Europe from Turkey and agreed, in principle to all of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s demands. Ankara will be given more money (double the €3 billion originally offered), visa free travel for Turks would be brought forward to June (originally it would have been introduced at the end of the year) and EU membership talks would be speeded up, which would include the opening of chapters that Cyprus had been objecting to.
The details would have to be bashed out by technocrats over the next couple of weeks with the aim of a package deal being ready for the European summit scheduled to be held on March 17. How much additional aid would be given was subject to negotiation while Reuters reported that “only a vague reference to preparing for a decision on opening more areas of membership talks” was made, describing this as “a particularly sensitive issue for Cyprus.” It is believed that a date would be given for the opening of five more chapters in accession talks, which had been blocked by Cyprus, in the package deal.
The President of Commission Jean Claude Juncker had agreed last November to the opening of the chapters in March, but it now appears this would be put back by two to three months. Cyprus had blocked the opening of the chapters because of Turkey’s refusal to fulfil its obligation towards Cyprus. Speaking to journalists yesterday, the spokesperson of the European External Action Service, Maja Kocijancic said: “At the Turkey-EU summit in November it had been announced that the activation of the accession talks would be re-examined and today the Commission is actively pursuing preparatory work for five negotiating chapters. The Commission is committed to a result and this will happen.”
All the opposition parties of Cyprus responded angrily to this news, claiming that the EU “could not proceed with the unfreezing of the accession chapters related to Turkey’s Cyprus obligations.” They also predicted that President Anastasiades would come under strong pressure to consent to the opening of the chapters, “which would constitute a reward for Turkish intransigence.” The reality is that the opening of the chapters is already a given and as Kocijancic pointed out yesterday, “the Commission is committed to a result.” All Anastasiades was able to do was buy a little more time.
The opposition parties are knowingly misleading the public by claiming that Anastasiades should have refused to consent to the opening of the chapters. We are deluding ourselves if we actually believe there was even a one in a million chance that tiny Cyprus would have been allowed to block a deal on the refugee crisis that has been threatening to tear the EU apart, over Turkey’s failure to recognise the Republic.