Austrian Ambassador: Turkey must meet EU Cyprus obligations

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by Athena Arsalidou

Nicosia, Jan 4 (CNA) — ‘Pacts must be respected”, the Austrian EU Presidency has said, when asked about Turkey’s refusal to extend its customs union agreement to Cyprus, an EU member since 2004, noting that any breach of what was agreed would have unfavorable consequences for Turkey’s EU accession course.

In an interview with CNA, on the occasion of the assumption of the six-monthly EU rotating presidency by Austria, the country’s Ambassador in Nicosia, Eva Hager, underlined that Turkey, in the short term, has to normalise relations with Cyprus, align its policy with EU policies regarding the accession of EU countries to international organizations and support efforts that would lead to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

“Turkey entered into a process of negotiations with the EU and by doing so it has undertaken commitments which it has to fulfil. One of the very clear commitments is the implementation of the Ankara Protocol (Customs Union extension). This must be seen simply and plainly under the principle pacta sunt servanda, pacts must be respected, if you sign a contract, you have to implement it. This is a condition sine qua non”, she stressed.

She noted that the short term obligations of Turkey as expressed in EU documents (EU declaration of 21st of September 2005, EU – Turkey Negotiating Framework and Revised EU – Turkey Partnership) will be “watched and reviewed, and there will be a progress report on all these short term priorities later this year by the Commission.”

“In the light of this progress report, member countries will evaluate where we stand and what the dynamic of this process is and this will have positive of negative effects on the negotiations with Turkey”, she said.

Hager referred to the EU counter declaration on Turkey’s unilateral

declaration that it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, saying that the document clearly indicates that “lack of progress regarding Turkey’s obligations will influence the question of negotiations with regard to individual chapters or even with regard to the negotiation process as a whole”.

Regarding Turkey’s accession negotiations, the Ambassador expressed the opinion that Turkey could start substantive negotiations with the EU during the Austrian presidency, since the screening process will be over in a few weeks.

The first EU – Turkey negotiating chapters would probably concern “science and research” and “culture and education”.

Referring to the Commission’s regulation for financial aid to the Turkish Cypriots, the Austrian Ambassador told CNA that the EU member countries agree that this regulation has to be disconnected from the direct trade regulation that concerns direct trade of Turkish Cypriots with EU countries.

“The draft regulation of the Commission concerning direct trade is

controversial, both with regard to content and to the legal basis. It has to be modified. The Commission at this stage agrees that modifications have to be made, such modifications can only be made, or a concept of trade can only be worked out, through discussions and agreements between the concerned parties”, she said.

Hager, who presented her credentials to President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos last April, referred to the prospects of reaching a settlement to the Cyprus issue and suggested that civil society from both communities on the island, should work more closely on concrete questions like they have done in the past in the framework of the Nicosia Master Plan, to help promote cultural and historical heritage in Nicosia.

Austrian Presidency’s Priorities

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Relieved that an agreement has been reached regarding the financial

perspectives of the Union, the Austrian Presidency will give emphasis on a series of issues, like the deadlock regarding the ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty.

The Ambassador said that the Austrian Presidency would focus on the dialogue for the Future of Europe that is due to begin at national levels in the framework of Plan D of the European Commission that concerns Democracy, Dialogue and Debate.

“We will emphasize a few strategic issues. We are relieved that the

financial perspectives have been settled in a reasonably fair way. This gives us the possibility to concentrate on major strategic issues. One of the great challenges is how to overcome the deadlock that has arisen after the referenda in France and Netherlands for the Constitutional Treaty” she told CNA.

Hager added that the dialogue for the Future of Europe would soon start in Cyprus as well, although the Cypriot House of Representatives has already ratified the Treaty.

A stock-taking of national debates on the Future of Europe, she said, will be presented in a report by the Austrian presidency at the end of its six month’s period, aiming to help Europe in its future course.

Another issue during these six months would be the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries (Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia – Herzegovina, and Serbia – Montenegro).

“The EU has agreed that these countries should have a clear EU perspective which at the moment is connected to the Association and Stabilization Agreements. These countries are in a different stage concerning these agreements, but Austria thinks that we have to give concrete impetus to this agenda”, she noted, underlining the importance of securing an area of stability in the Balkans.

The Austrian Presidency will also focus on migration, an issue that concerns Cyprus since according to official records the island is faced with large numbers of immigrants, legal and illegal, as well as asylum seekers.

Hager told CNA that this issue will be raised at a Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Council on the sidelines of the Justice and Home’s Affairs Council, that is to take place in February emphasizing on migration problems faced by the Mediterranean countries of Europe.

She also said that the Austrian Presidency will focus on securing the “European model of life” which is a model characterized by high standards of welfare, social security and protection of the environment.

Austrian Ambassador referred to the Conference that will take place in Salzburg on 27 and 28 January, aiming to prompt a broad dialogue on the importance and role of Europe.

The conference will be attended by leading figures from the world of

politics, diplomacy, the arts, science and the media and is entitled ‘The Sound of Europe”.

The place and date of the conference have been chosen deliberately: Salzburg is the birthplace of Austrian musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born on 27 January 250 years ago. The date also marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945.