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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive


Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

Attempts to resolve the political division of Cyprus and reunify the island have undergone various levels of negotiation for over 45 years. Between May 2010 and May 2012, Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu engaged in an intensified negotiation process to reach a mutually agreed settlement. Despite regular leadership meetings, continuous technical level discussions, and five meetings with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Christofias and Eroglu were unable to find common ground or make enough necessary concessions on the difficult issues of property rights, territory, mainland Turks who had “settled” in the north, and citizenship, issues where both sides have had long-held and very different positions, to craft a final settlement.

In May 2012 the U.N.-sponsored talks, which had essentially reached a stalemate, were downgraded from leaders’ meetings to technical level discussions. With little apparent objection from either side, the talks were essentially placed on hold until at least after the 2013 national elections in the republic. This change in the status of the negotiations has raised questions about whether unification can now be achieved at all, increasing the possibility of a permanent separation.

The talks also fell victim to the convergence of several additional factors. One was that Turkey had announced on several occasions that it would not deal with any aspect of the EU that involved the Republic of Cyprus once it assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on July 1, 2012. Mr. Eroglu, despite the fact that the settlement negotiations were not part of the presidency’s mandate, also declared he would not meet directly with President Christofias during the same period. A second factor was Turkey’s insistence that the U.N. convene an international conference to resolve security-related issues, which would involve Turkey. The Greek Cypriots refused to agree to such a conference until the domestic issues were resolved with the Turkish Cypriots, a condition which continued to become unlikely. A third factor contributing to the demise of the negotiations was Christofias’s intent to make the Cyprus presidency of the EU a success; Christofias clearly did not want a divisive debate over what probably would have been an unpopular agreement or a potential rejection of any agreement he and Eroglu could have negotiated to preoccupy or to ultimately overshadow the Cyprus EU presidency.

The discovery of natural gas deposits off the southern coast of Cyprus also became an issue. The ensuing accusations, threats, and distrust between the republic, the Turkish Cypriots, and Ankara over how these resources would be exploited and shared between the two communities also clouded the negotiating atmosphere. Finally, the EU Commission announced in May 2012 that it would launch a new “positive agenda” with Turkey that would seek to strengthen relations with Ankara outside of Turkey’s formal EU membership process. This may have signaled to Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots that a settlement to the Cyprus problem would no longer hold up the strengthening of EU-Turkey relations, thus lessening the urgency of a Cyprus settlement. In May, without an agreement in the works, Christofias announced he would not seek reelection in 2013, seemingly signaling that he would not try for an agreement before he left office.

The United States Congress continues to maintain its interest in a resolution of the Cyprus issue. New legislation (H.Res. 676 and S.Con.Res. 47) has been introduced in the House and Senate criticizing Turkey and calling for support for the republic. This report provides a brief overview of the early history of the negotiations, a more detailed review of the negotiations since 2008, and a description of some of the issues involved in the talks.



Date of Report: August 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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Monday, August 20, 2012

European Union Enlargement: A Status Report on Turkey’s Accession Negotiations


Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

October 2012 will mark the seventh anniversary of the European Union’s decision to proceed with formal negotiations with Turkey toward full membership in the Union. As 2012 began, Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU had basically reached a political and technical stalemate with little anticipation of being revised in the near term. During the first six months of 2012, no additional chapters of the EU’s rules and regulations known as the acquis communautaire were opened and none were likely to be opened for the remainder of 2012 as Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, over the objections of EU officials, made good on his threat to freeze certain relations with the EU when Cyprus assumed the 6-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1, 2012. This was important because the accession negotiations are normally overseen by the presidency.

In their annual assessments of the progress of the accession negotiations in 2011, all three European Union institutions—the Council, Commission, and Parliament—expressed their overall disappointment with the lack of any significant progress in the talks and maintained that Turkey’s continued refusal to extend diplomatic recognition to EU member Cyprus, or to open Turkey’s sea and air ports to Cypriot shipping and commerce until a political settlement has been achieved on Cyprus, continued to be the major roadblock to progress. The current economic and financial crisis within the Eurozone and a continued healthy level of skepticism of Turkey on the part of many Europeans, fueled by cultural and religious differences, continue to dull the question of whether Turkey should be embraced as a member of the European family at all. Despite these problems, some EU member states, but particularly the EU Commission, continue to publically express a desire to see Turkey’s accession move forward.

By contrast, in Turkey, EU membership seems to be becoming more irrelevant as Turkey’s economy continues to thrive and as Ankara continues to re-position and strengthen itself in its own neighborhood between secular Europe and the Islamist emergence in the Middle East. Many Turks seem to feel Turkey’s relations with Europe are such that “being European” or achieving membership in the Union may no longer be needed in order for Turkey to define itself.

Sensing that the accession process itself would achieve little in 2012, but not wanting to place Turkey on hold until after the Cypriot EU presidency concluded, the EU Commission proposed to initiate a new relationship with Turkey outside of the accession negotiations. On May 17, 2012, the new “Positive Agenda with Turkey” was launched in Ankara by Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Štefan Füle and Turkish Minister for European Affairs Egemen Bağış. The “agenda”, described by the Commisison as intended to bring fresh dynamics into EU-Turkey relations and by others as essentially an institutional trick intended to circumvent the Cyprus issue, includes continued support for domestic reforms in Turkey, foreign policy cooperation, new visa policies, and migration issues, among others. Some believe that the new initiative, although not intended to replace the accession negotiations, seems comprehensive enough that it could eventually replace the accession process and more fully define future relations (a privileged partnership?) between the EU and Turkey short of EU membership.

This report provides a brief overview of the EU’s accession process and Turkey’s path to EU membership. The U.S. Congress has had a long-standing interest in Turkey as a NATO ally and partner in regional foreign policy issues. Although some Members of Congress have expressed support for Turkey’s membership in the EU, congressional enthusiasm seems to have diminished recently.



Date of Report: August 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: RS22517
Price: $29.95

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