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 giugno 2020 


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On Wednesday, the European Parliament showed its dissatisfaction at Turkey's refusal to recognise Cyprus with unforeseen force, taking a decision to postpone a vote on extending the EU-Turkey customs union agreement to the 10 new Member States, including Cyprus. Even so, the European Parliament did not ask for accession negotiations to be postponed. The delay in the vote on the ratification of the customs union will not stop accession negotiations from opening on 3 October, as the only condition was for Turkey to sign the protocol on the extension of the customs union, which it did on 29 July. The leader of the EPP-ED group, German Christian Democrat Hans-Gert Pöttering, who called for the vote be postponed, explained that it is "unacceptable" for Turkey to have declared that in spite of the protocol, it will refuse to open up its ports and airspace to Greek Cypriot votes and aircraft. The EPP would like to see a commitment on the part of the Turkish government that the declaration of its non-recognition of Cyprus will not be one of the documents for the ratification of the protocol, he said. The leader of the PES group, Martin Schulz, opposed the postponement of the vote, stressing that the joint resolution on the framework for the accession negotiations, which the European Parliament adopted on Wednesday, contained all the necessary guarantees to make sure that the protocol on Customs union would be applied in full by Turkey. The postponement of the European Parliament's assent was decided on by 311 votes in favour, 285 against and 63 abstentions. As it was not a roll-call vote, it is impossible to say exactly who voted for the report, but many asserted that it went beyond the traditional ranks of those opposing Turkish accession, as Turkey's attitudes to Cyprus had greatly influenced the vote. Almost all of the EPP-ED group voted in favour of the report, with the Spanish members abstaining, indicated a parliamentary source. The French members of the UDF also convinced a few liberal MEPs to vote for the report. After the vote, Dutch Green member Joos Lagendijk, president of the EP's delegation for the EU-Turkey joint Parliamentary committee, strongly criticised the EPP for having proposed the report, despite the fact that a joint resolution had been drawn up the day before by the EPP-ED, PES, ALDE, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL and UEN groups, on the framework for the accession negotiations. The EPP-ED group "said whilst the report was being prepared that it would not ask for the vote be postponed, in return for which the wording of the resolution was very firm", said Mr Lagendijk, who described himself as "very disappointed". "How can we bring pressure to bear for the Turkish airports and ports to be opened up to the Cypriots in virtue of the customs union, when we ourselves have refused to ratify this customs union?", he asked. The joint resolution on the accession and negotiation framework was prepared the day before by the six political groups, despite disagreements between the groups and even within the groups, particularly the EPP-ED. The joint resolution was adopted by 356 votes in favour, 181 against and five abstentions, just after the vote on the extension of the customs union was postponed. The plenary tightened up the wording of the text even further (which EUROPE will publish in full), with much emphasis placed on the respect of obligations, pressure to be brought to bear on Turkey and threats to suspend discussions. In its adoption of an EPP-ED amendment, by 320 votes in favour and 282 against, the Parliament "notes that the Commission and the Council take the view" that Turkey has fulfilled the conditions for negotiations to begin, without itself taking position. In the text agreed on by the groups the day before, it had been planned for the European Parliament to recognise "that Turkey has formally fulfilled the last conditions necessary for accession negotiations to open", including the signature of the extension of the customs union. Going further than the Council, which "regretted" Turkey's unilateral declaration on the non-recognition of Cyprus, the European Parliament "sincerely deplores the fact that Turkey has raised serious doubts as to its willingness fully to apply all the provisions of the protocol"- which had already then provided for in the joint resolution. On Turkey's respect of its obligations to apply the customs union to Cyprus, the European Parliament again goes further than the Member States. On the counter-declaration which it adopted last week, the Council declared that "the non-respect by Turkey of all of its obligations will impede the general progress of the negotiations". The European Parliament, on the other hand, explicitly states that "any shortcoming (...) will have serious consequences" and "may even lead to the suspension" of the process of negotiations. Furthermore, the members of the European Parliament called for the implementation of the customs union to be one of the first chapters dealt with in the accession negotiations in 2006. Nonetheless, despite all the doubts it expresses in this resolution about Turkey's willingness to apply the extension of the customs union, the Parliament does not go so far as to ask for negotiations not to open on 3 October. The Parliament has taken up, word for word, the declaration of the Council, which described Turkey's recognition of Cyprus as "a necessary component of the accession process", but, as for the application of the protocol on the customs union, the MEPs go further, brandishing the threat of the "suspension" of negotiations, and stressing that Turkey's recognition of Cyprus "should not in any way be a subject of negotiation". The Parliament also calls on the Council to "put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community" and, in particular, adopted proposals for aid and direct trade, as presented by the European Commission a year ago, after the failure of the referendum on the unification of the island. The Parliament stressed the fact that although the joint objective of the negotiations "is accession", "the outcome cannot be guaranteed in advance", and "will not automatically lead to accession". It asks that "each session of negotiations at ministerial level be proceeded with an assessment of the political criteria, both in theory and in practice, in order to keep up constant pressure on the Turkish authorities to keep up the pace of the necessary reforms". Lastly, the European Parliament "stresses that the Treaty of Nice is not an acceptable basis" for the accession of a new Member State, "and therefore calls insistently for the necessary reforms to be carried out as part of the constitutional process". The EP also adopted an amendment calling on Turkey to recognise the genocide of the Armenians. By a small majority of 304 in favour, 294 against and 57 abstentions, the MEPs even feel that this should be a "pre-condition to accession to the European Union". The debate in plenary was tense, at times even confrontational, during the first speeches by the group leaders. The president of the committee on foreign affairs, Elmar Brok (CDU), started by stressing the fact that a candidate "must" recognise all the Member States and that the absorption capacity of the European Union must be taken into account, and insisted that the negotiations should be frank and open. The president of the EPP-ED, Hans-Gert Pöttering, referred in particular to Cyprus and freedom of belief, urging Turkey to "recognise the rights of Christians". The CDU MEP voiced his indignation that the EU had felt able to open accession negotiations with Turkey, despite the human rights situation in the country, but refused to do the same with Croatia. "You have to apply the same criteria to one and all in order to be credible", he said. The leader of the PES group, Martin Schulz, adopted an offensive stance against the EPP group, accusing it of hypocrisy and calling on it clearly to state that it "opposed the accession of Turkey". "You don't want anything to do with Turkey because it is a long way away and a Muslim country, whereas Croatia is closer and catholic. That is what you are really saying", he said. Although he also felt that the Turkish refusal to recognise Cyprus was "unacceptable ", the German social Democrat stressed that after all the reforms called for and adopted, the promises that have been made to a candidate "for 40 years" should be kept. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the Greens/EFA, also attacked opponents to Turkish accession, stating that behind this opposition "lay racist feelings against Islam"- even though this may not be the argument used by all, he acknowledged. Elmar Brok asked him, unsuccessfully, to take back his words. Speaking on behalf of the ALDE group, the Italian member Emma Bonino expressed her regret that the tone of the resolution was so strong, stating that "nor does this help our Greek Cypriot friends to show greater flexibility in finding a solution to a situation for which they are largely responsible". She welcomed the fact that the conference on the massacre of the Armenians had finally taken place, the previous weekend in Istanbul. Francis Wurtz, president of the GUE/NGL, stressed the need for the effective respect of democratic rights and minority rights, particularly those of the Kurds. In a press release, the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, "regretted" the decision of the European Parliament postpone the vote on the extension of the customs union to the 10 new Member States of the EU. "Unfortunately, this decision does not strengthen our position in calling on Turkey to respect its commitment to ratify and implement the protocol without delay". He stressed the fact that this report "is not a rejection", and that it does not prevent negotiations from being launched on 3 October. Parliament divided: arguments for and against In this parliament, there are three groups: those who do not want Turkey, those who are resigned to a marriage of convenience and those who believe that accession is a genuine political project of a pluralist Europe open to diversity. This is how Belgian Socialist Véronique de Keyser summed up the positions and her support for the latter. She admitted that it was a "wild bet", adding that Europe should not compromise on any of its conditions and that they wanted a marriage of love and "one has to be cruel to be kind". At the Social Democrats group, Austrian Social Democrat Johannes Swoboda said that in the negotiations the Union could show Turkey what European thinking meant, helping to get it to understand that all minorities had to participate equally in civil society, encouraging better relations with its neighbours (notably Armenia), by recognising its own history, convincing it to normalise relations with Cyprus. Michel Rocard criticised the "hostile forces working for failure" in negotiations. The former French prime minister also affirmed that unfortunately there were "serious difficulties in the short term... which were hiding the positive effects that will only be visible in ten or fifteen years". He declared that the work required significant explanation, as well as recognition of certain positive signs (such as the university conference on Armenian genocide, which finally took place in Istanbul: EUROPE 9034 and 9035). Nicola Zingaretti also defended the opening of negotiations as "a choice of civilisation", where as Panagiotis Beglitis called on the Union to support democratisation in Turkey but without providing it with a blank cheque. Emine Bozkurt, rapporteur on women's rights in Turkey pointed to the progress she observed during her most recent meeting with the Turkish authorities and NGOs. However, she did ask if the problem was being seriously addressed. Andrew Duff (ALDE, Britain) asked about the Union's ability in absorbing Turkey if id does not succeed in resolving its institutional problems and said that the question of Cyprus, raised by almost all the parliamentarians, was obviously a problem but that it could be settled during negotiations. The Greens/EFA, said that Turkish accession depended on broad support. Cem Ozdemir was convinced that democracy would be possible in Turkey if Europe persevered and Joost Ladendijk (Netherlands) called on Turkish reformers to be brave. British Conservative Geoffrey Van Orden explained that Turkish accession was a good thing because with Turkey among its members, Europe could become a looser union preserving its national sovereignties. Among the most fervent adversaries of access were Jacques Toubon (EPP-ED, France) who denounced the indifference to the will of the people who did not want Turkey and the indifference to the European project. The UMP delegate affirmed that "the Europe we want is not the one Turkey would compel us to pursue". Renate Sommer from Germany exclaimed that "pactas unt servanda" should exist for the two sides and not just for the EU. Bernd Posselt from the CSU provided assurances that they were not being religiously intolerant by rejecting these negotiations, as the Muslims of Bosnia and Albania were Europeans but the Christians of Ethiopia were not. The position of Gyorgy Schöpflin from Britain of Hungarian descent and a member of the EPP-ED groups was more speculative. He pointed out that two principles appeared to be confronting each other: respect for democracy and what Turkey as a geo-strategic partner would mean. He also asked whether armed Turkish forces still had the right to intervene in the political process in their country. Marielle De Sarnez (ALDE, France) said that once negotiations had opened, the result had been decided: no-one would finally dare to say "no" to accession, she affirmed. Philippe de Villiers (Ind/Dem) demanded the definitive end to negotiations and called on his country, France, to immediately leave the negotiating table on 3 October and pose its right of veto. The UEN does not see Turkey's candidacy in a good light. Mogens Camre said that they did not want the Koran to influence "our democracy and we don't want to pay for the economic development of Turkey". Several Cypriot MEPs, such as Adamos Adamou (GUE/NGL) and Marios Matsakis insisted on recognition of Cyprus. Matsakis declared that if they allowed Turkey into the Union, why not allow Afghanistan, Iraq and Nepal too? He also asked, provocatively, why the USA, which was so keen on Turkey joining, did not allow Turkey to join their own Union. Council and Commission confirm: negotiation is an open process In an attempt to calm things down, Douglas Alexander, president of the Council made some clarifications: the goal of the negotiations, and the planned framework for the negotiations was to precisely deal with questions of concern to the Parliament. Echoing the sentiments of Emma Bonino (ALDE, Italy), the British European affairs minister insisted on the fact that some progress had been possible in Turkey thanks to accession prospects; whatever the "ultimate goal" of negotiations? Mr Alexander said that it would be an "open process", subordinated to clear conditionality"; - should one really speak of the Constitution by linking it to negotiations with Turkey? We have ample opportunity to discuss the decision of the June summit to "revisit" the question of the Constitution by spring 2006, Mr Alexander said in response to the demand made by Jo Leinen, Chair of the EP Committee on Constitutional Affairs, who believes that no new enlargement is possible without a Constitution (see other article). Speaking for the European Commission, Olli Rehn said: - on the Ankara Protocol. Turkey has a parliamentary system and it is therefore up to the National Assembly to ratify the protocol, and not the government. Similarly, the Commission will not try to "guarantee" the result of a vote at the European Parliament; - application of the protocol after ratification. This must be enforced "fully and properly". One must not underestimate the intelligence of the Turks, Mr Rehn warns, recalling that application of the protocol will have consequences on the process of negotiation. Seeking to delay the vote on the protocol, the Union would, to use sporting terms, win a goal against its own side, Mr Rehn said, inviting the Parliament not to weaken the Union's negotiating position but, on the contrary, to rapidly ratify the protocol. The Parliament barely heeded him.

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