By Esra Aygin
An increasingly unstable political climate in the region, radical power alignments and the worst refugee crisis since World War II have heightened Turkey’s importance, making it an indispensable geostrategic asset for the European Union.
In return for collaboration in addressing the refugee crisis and cooperation in energy, fight against terrorism, and diplomatic efforts to end the war in Syria, the EU has promised Turkey financial aid, visa-free travel by October 2016, and a renewed accession process.
The EU’s initiative is timely for an Ankara faced with criticism for its authoritarian rule, rights violations and split from the Western world.
It has staggered from one foreign policy failure to another; and is striving for a leading role in the Eastern Mediterranean. This renewed Turkish-EU relationship, which is solely based on converging interests,will help the settlement process in Cyprus, analysts say.
“The Turkey-EU convergence is more of an indecent sales agreement than a genuine effort to integrate Turkey into the bloc. “However, if we look at it from a totally practical perspective, the revival of the Turkish-EU relations is beneficial for Cyprus,” said International Relations Professor Ahmet Sozen.
“Turkey needs a success story that will compensate for all its failures and miscalculations. That success story is the EU, and the solution of the Cyprus problem will help it get there.”
The EU will hold an intergovernmental conference on December 14 to officially open Chapter 17 on economic and monetary policywith Turkey, and has committed to complete, in the first quarter of 2016, the preparatory work for the opening of five other accession chapters. However, to be able to fulfill its commitments to Turkey, the EU needs the approval of the Republic of Cyprus.
“Turkey recognises its significant leverage over the EU…but must still contend with the Cypriot government’s veto power over EU-Turkey accession talks,” Stratfor Intelligence said in a recent report. “Thus, the more progress Ankara makes in the negotiations over Cyprus, the more progress it will make in the accession talks.”
Diplomatic sources say that Turkey tells all its counterparts that it is ready to move forward with the Cyprus problem and makes all its calculations on the assumption that the Cyprus problem will be solved through a settlement in early 2016 and referenda in March.
“A strategic relationship with the EU is a strong incentive for Turkey and it is making efforts for a settlement in Cyprus,” said Sozen.
“However, if the Cyprus problem remains unresolved due to a factor other than Turkey and Turkey is not blamed for the failure, this would not constitute a big problem.” Sozen’s opinion was echoed by Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir in a recent interview: “The paradigm of Turkish-EU relations has changed. The cards have been redealt,” Bozkir said.
“It has been seen that certain developments that trouble the EU cannot be overcome without Turkey… Even if there is a failure in Cyprus, it would not impede the momentum in our relations with the EU.
“In time, Cyprus will understand this, and if it doesn’t, the EU will persuade it to understand… I believe that the EU will pull its weight and take certain measures if Cyprus continues to be an obstacle in our relations.”
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