EU summit draft sets tough terms for Turkey

THE E.U. heads of state are expected to indirectly call on Turkey to recognise Cyprus in their summit conclusions on December 17 if a Dutch presidency proposal is adopted.

The draft European Council conclusions, circulated by the presidency yesterday, “welcomed Turkey’s [decision] to sign the protocol regarding the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement, taking account of the accession of the new Member States.”

The word decision is in brackets pending Ankara’s confirmation.

The wording is not expected to satisfy Nicosia that is pushing for a more direct commitment by Turkey to recognise the Republic.

The Dutch assured ambassadors here that these are draft conclusions, to be discussed in two meetings of the permanent representatives (COREPER), the first tomorrow. The discussion will go ahead after a number of Foreign Ministers insisted last week that such an important decision cannot be taken without transparent procedures and an exchange of views.

The draft conclusions, obtained by the Cyprus Mail, contain no surprises. They reflect the terms set out by the Commission in October, recommending the opening of negotiations with Turkey.

The leaders will however have to decide the goal and outcome of negotiations and whether they will adopt the recommendation for an “open ended process whose outcome cannot be guaranteed beforehand”. This is the most contentious issue and Ankara is pushing hard not to have it included.

The Dutch draft went beyond the Commission’s recommendation on only one point. It gives one-third of members the right to seek suspension of talks if Ankara goes back on reforms, while the Commission proposed only it would have this power.

The draft adopts the EU executives proposal for long transition periods and specific arrangements in structural policies and agriculture, as well as permanent safeguard clauses in the free movement of persons, to alleviate fears of mass immigration. Accession negotiations, it says, can only be concluded after the establishment of the Financial Framework for the period from 2014.

An important point for Cyprus is the fact that the accession negotiations will be conducted in an Intergovernmental Conference where decisions require unanimity.

Turkey will have to accept other tough conditions, including a permanent emergency brake on labour migration. The draft also left blank the crucial wording of the decision on whether and when to open entry negotiations with Ankara for leaders to fill in at their December 16-17 summit.

It welcomed “the decisive progress made by Turkey in its far-reaching reform process” but set a strict framework for negotiations, saying membership talks could not be concluded until the bloc had agreed on its post-2014 budget.

Turkey’s leaders have insisted they will accept no special conditions for their accession talks that have not been applied to previous candidates.

The Dutch draft said: “In the case of a serious and persistent breach in a candidate state of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law on which the Union is founded, the Commission will, at its own initiative or on the request of at least one-third of member states, recommend the suspension of negotiations and propose the conditions for eventual resumption.

The document said EU governments would set “benchmarks” for opening and concluding negotiations on each policy area — giving Brussels the ability to make Turkey reach certain standards just to start talks on individual issues.

The draft did not spell out any explicit alternative to membership, as sought by France and Austria, if Turkey does not meet all EU requirements.

It left a blank paragraph on “the goal and outcome of the negotiations”, referring to the Commission recommendation that talks would be an “open-ended process whose outcome cannot be guaranteed beforehand”.

In the meantime, the European Parliament Foreign Relations Committee is expected to adopt a resolution on Turkey today, calling on Ankara to recognise the Republic of Cyprus and withdraw its troops from the island, according to a fixed timetable. The resolution, that also calls for the resumption of talks based on the Annan plan and EU principles, will be approved by the plenary December 13-15.