EU Faults Turkey On Cyprus Trade, Showing Entry Risks

By Jonathan Stearns

Sept 27 2006

Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) — The European Union criticized Turkey for
the second time in as many days for restricting trade with Cyprus,
underscoring the risk of a breakdown in talks on Turkish entry into
the EU.

The European Parliament today pressed Turkey, which occupies part of
EU member Cyprus, to lift a ban on Cypriot ships and airplanes.

Yesterday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn urged the Ankara
government to end the embargo as he prepares a Nov. 8 assessment of
Turkey’s bid for membership.

"The restrictions infringe the principle of the free movement of
goods," the Parliament said in a resolution approved in Strasbourg,
France. "A lack of progress in this regard will have serious
implications for the negotiation process and could even bring it to
a halt."

The warnings reflect EU anxieties about letting in Turkey, which would
become the first Muslim member and one of the bloc’s most populous
nations. Turkey’s occupation of the northern tier of Cyprus since a
1974 invasion and its refusal to recognize the Mediterranean island
republic add to the troubles.

The 25-nation EU began decade-long accession talks with Turkey last
October after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government promised
to extend to Cyprus a free-trade accord with other EU members. The
government in Ankara has since linked this step to the end of a
European trade embargo against the Turkish- occupied part of Cyprus.

`No Bargaining’

"I hope Turkey understands that there is no bargaining on this,"
Camiel Eurlings, a Dutch member who steered the resolution through the
EU Parliament, said in an interview. "Turkey must do what it pledged."

Eurlings said he had the impression the Turkish government was heading
"toward a cliff" on this matter and was speeding up instead of trying
to alter its course. "I am very frustrated. I am worried," he said.

Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004 without the northern region because
voters in the Greek-speaking south rejected a United Nations-backed
unification plan. The Turkish-speaking north endorsed the plan,
prompting Ankara to blame the Cypriot government for the island’s
continuing division.

The EU Parliament said Turkey should bolster efforts to unite the
island through an "early withdrawal" from northern Cyprus of Turkish
soldiers numbering about 30,000.

Facilitating Talks

"The withdrawal of Turkish soldiers could facilitate the resumption
of substantive negotiations," the assembly said in its resolution,
which was approved by a vote of 429 to 71 with 125 abstentions.

The Parliament, whose resolution on Turkey is non-binding, acts in
these cases as a barometer of public opinion in the bloc. EU national
governments and the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm in
Brussels, steer membership negotiations.

In February, EU governments approved a 139 million-euro ($176 million)
aid package for northern Cyprus while refusing Turkey’s demand for
an end to the EU embargo against the region.

In a concession to Turkey today, the Parliament scrapped from its
resolution a call to make Turkish "acknowledgement" of the alleged
genocide against Armenians in 1915 a "precondition" for EU membership.

The draft resolution from the Parliament’s foreign-affairs committee in
early September had included this demand, which the Turkish government
criticized at the time as being "far from objective."

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