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32 - Relations with Turkey on the Cyprus question

Grade: C-
Unity 3/5
Resources 2/5
Outcome 2/10
Total 7/20
Scorecard 2012: D+ (5/20)
Scorecard 2013: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2014: C- (7/20)

UN-mediated reunification talks resumed in early 2014, but stalled again in the autumn. The Cyprus question continues to undermine EU policy on Turkey. 

The Cyprus question creates many challenges to Turkey-EU relations. The EU would like to see it resolved, but neither Brussels nor the member states have made much progress. Turkey shows no sign of implementing the 2004 Ankara Protocol (which would open ports and airports to Cypriot ships and planes) and Cyprus continues to block the opening of six chapters of the acquis with Turkey (since 2007). The halt in the accession process undermines the EU’s leverage over Turkey as well as having geostrategic implications: Cyprus has blocked Turkey from EU foreign policy and security mechanisms, and Turkey uses its veto in NATO against cooperation with Cyprus.

UN-mediated reunification talks for an agreement on a bizonal, bicommunal federation resumed in February 2014. However, US involvement was stronger than that of the EU or member states. The European Court for Human Rights plays an indirect role, with decisions regarding individual rights on the basis of Turkey’s “1974 invasion”. The UK continues to be the most active member state in pushing a resolution forward.

In response to the offshore natural gas exploration conducted by Cyprus, in October 2014 Turkey sent a vessel to explore for hydrocarbons in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone. Turkey also deployed a warship to protect its vessel and to carry out surveillance of Cypriot exploratory drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. In reaction, the Greek Cypriot Administration suspended the reunification talks indefinitely. Here, too, Europe had little to say.

Currently, there is no clarity as regards when and how the talks will resume, and neither the EU institutions nor individual EU member states, with the exception of the UK, are expending significant efforts to restart the process.