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CYPRUS-EU: "The ball is in Turkey's court".

* Conference highlights Ankara's weaknesses in regional affairs *

There are chapters in the accession course of Turkey that could have been opened since they are not blocked by the EU or any member state, but did not move forward due to the stance of Turkey which does not implement its accession obligations, the Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said on Tuesday.

Addressing a conference on "New Turkey, EU and Cyprus," organised by the Office of the European Parliament in Cyprus and the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence of the University of Nicosia, Christodoulides said that "the negotiating framework is the bible for every accession process," and added that "there are three chapters that could have been opened but this was not made possible for reasons that concern Turkey."

Noting that the Republic of Cyprus has supported the accession course of Turkey since 2005, Christodoulides said that "Turkey does not seem to comprehend its accession negotiations as a process through which it is obliged to be harmonised with the EU.

"Unfortunately, Turkey considers the negotiations as a kind of bargaining with the EU, a process through which the institutional structure, the values and the principles of the EU must adapt to the particular case of Turkey."

The spokesman emphasised the serious democratic deficiencies within Turkey citing as examples the way that Turkey deals with the country's media, the issues that concern gender equality and other issues.

Blaming the EU executive as well, Christodoulides said that "the Commission should seriously consider its own share of responsibility as to the success or failure to exercise influence on the candidate country through the accession process, in order for it to make strides of progress."

"Why are other candidate countries being constantly pressured by the EU to make concessions so that the process moves forward? Why isn't the same tactic used with Turkey?" he asked.

The spokesman concluded that "the view that the lack of progress in Turkey's accession course is due to the stance of Nicosia is wrong. The ball is in Turkey's court."

In a recorded message to the conference, MEP Takis Hadjigeorghiou (GUE) said that the criticism of Turkey from within the EU is no longer linked to the Cyprus problem, but also has to do with other internal issues of that country and regional conflicts.

"Turkey today faces a multitude of problems: Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Kurds. So, could it see Cyprus as a relative easier problem to solve? In any case, Turkey will try to overcome these and other problems, first by avoiding any cost to itself," Hedjigeorghiou said.

In his remarks, University of Nicosia Rector and Chair of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, Michalis Attalides, said that Turkey is being constantly isolated by the West and the EU, in particular.

"The character of the new Turkey is constantly diverging away from the West, not only as regards its foreign affairs policies, but also as regards western standards and values," Attalides said.

He added that Turkey's recent ventures into the eastern Mediterranean waters in its surveys of the offshore gasfields in the Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as the volatile situation in the Middle East, suggest that the EU's influence over Turkey, as well as that of the US is waning.

Yiannis Valinakis, Chair of the Jean Monnet Centre at the University of Athens, and former Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece, said that the political ideology of Ahmet Davutoglu is a dominating factor in present day Turkey, but also that the current Prime Minister's dogma of zero conflict with its neighbours has failed.

"Turkey thinks that it is a very big country that can defy international rules and many European countries are indifferent to what this means to European rules of conduct."

Valinakis concluded that Turkey has seen several failures in its foreign policy, despite the image it is trying to project as being an international player.

European Studies professor Basak Zeynep Alpan of the Technical University of the Middle East in Ankara said that "Turkey, after all, is not a young state."

She said that "despite the lack of progress in its EU accession course, the country is seeking a leading role in the region by using its European rhetoric democratisation, human rights and a free market economy.

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Publication:Financial Mirror (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EXCY
Date:Dec 11, 2014
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