On 8 June 2006 EU ambassadors found an agreement on the opening of detailed talks on the first negotiating chapter with Turkey. However, the Cyprus conflict now risks derailing the Turkish accession process.
All was set for the launch of detailed accession talks with Turkey on 12 June 2006 – all, that is, except the overcoming of Cyprus’s opposition to starting talks with a country that refuses to recognise it and, despite obligations under the customs union deal, has not opened its ports to Cypriot ships (see LinksDossier).
Until Turkey agrees to a more explicit reference to the need to recognise Cyprus and fully implements the EU customs union agreement, the accession negotiations will not be able to proceed as planned.
To avoid humiliation, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül has decided not to head for Luxembourg, where the talks were supposed to take place, until he can be sure that negotiations on the least contentious negotiating chapter, science and research can begin (see EURACTIV Overview). The talks on this chapter were also set to be closed the same day.
According to the Turkish newspaper Zaman, Gül warned, his government would “adopt a new policy, if EU foreign ministers subdue political problems raised by the Greek Cypriot Administration”.
Meeting in Luxembourg on 12 June, EU foreign ministers will seek to find a solution to the problem. In case no deal is reached, talks will effectively be suspended – before even having begun in earnest.
Regardless of the outcome, foreign ministers are expected to send a strong reminder to Turkey on the need to speed up reforms.