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Media Watch 2004

19 December 2004
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 19 December 2004.
Mixed reactions in Europe
"[Irish Prime Minster] Ahern said Erdogan’s comments that Turkey was not recognising Cyprus were unnecessary... Ahern said he fully backed the angry Cypriot reaction that this barbed comment was an attack not on one country but on the entire Union of 25 member states..."

WHILE the Greek Cypriots were pondering the implications of the Brussels summit yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was enjoying a hero’s welcome and Europe was experiencing mixed reactions.

Erdogan was greeted by around 2,000 people carrying placards calling him “The conqueror of EU”, and “The new star of the EU”.

In a brief televised statement he said: “Yesterday in Brussels, Turkey concretized 41 years of efforts. We will take advantage of the period up to October 3” to pursue reforms.

However, not all European leaders appeared a thrilled as Erdogan. Irish Prime Minster Bertie Ahern criticised what he referred to as the “bitter little pill” injected into the final roundtable of talks by the Turks, the Irish Independent said yesterday.

Ahern said Erdogan’s comments that Turkey was not recognising Cyprus were unnecessary and ruined what should have been a celebratory occasion.

Ahern said he fully backed the angry Cypriot reaction that this barbed comment was an attack not on one country but on the entire Union of 25 member states, the paper said.

Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos said yesterday it appeared to him that it had been a case of the EU giving in to Turkey’s terms, rather than vice versa.

French president Jacques Chirac and Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel have promised referenda on Turkey’s accession. Chirac said Ankara would have to recognise the Armenian genocide, while Schuessel said bringing a Muslim country into the EU “must not be decided in an ivory tower … We cannot be indifferent about public opinion”.

Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis yesterday expressed his satisfaction with the summit outcome. Molyviatis told reporters that Turkey’s promise to sign the customs protocol was absolutely positive. “If the protocol is not signed, then negotiations do not begin,” he said.

Molyviatis also said Friday’s decision would increase the impetus for a resumption of the Cyprus talks. “I cannot tell you under what conditions this will occur; I cannot exactly predict this, but I believe that the Annan plan will comprise its basis, while it should also be taken into consideration that Cyprus is now a member of the European Union,” he said.

On the island, diplomatic sources said the positive decision on Turkey was great for Cyprus and the chances for a solution. A negative decision would have been “catastrophic” for a solution, the sources said.

The sources said the ‘recognition’ issue had been blown out of proportion and was not as significant as it was made out to be. “In what way would getting that recognition contribute to a solution to the Cyprus problem? It wouldn’t have done anything at all. If anything it would have been negative.

It cuts the Turkish Cypriots out of the equation and makes things difficult to proceed with the Annan plan. It would have been a significant change to the status quo and one that would not bring any positive developments at all.”
The sources said that the process of normalisation was inevitable, as Turkey would have to talk to Cyprus during the accession process, which would lowers tensions.

“It’s clearly been their full intention to extend the customs union. It’s a legal formality. What we are talking about here is no big deal.”

The source also said that if Erdogan had signed the protocol on Friday the calls for his resignation would have been much louder “because this thing has been built into a huge political and symbolic thing. If you look at what it is in reality it isn’t that huge or important. This is just how it’s become to be perceived both in Cyprus and in Turkey,” the source said.

“It reasonable to say it would have been political suicide for Erdogan to do it and he would have had no choice but to walk away. It’s more a case of the Greek Cypriots having overbid and having to face the consequences of that.”

However, the source said that the Greek Cypriot side had come through in the end. “You have to acknowledge that he (Papadopoulos) behaved in a statesmanlike manner and he accepted the big picture that a Turkey on the road to accession was preferable to having whatever language in the conclusions.”"