Turkey should normalize relations with Greek Cyprus, according to the European Union’s annual progress report released announced yesterday, but Turkey’s EU minister said linking Turkey’s membership to the Cyprus issue was a mistake.
Emphasizing that Turkey seeks full EU membership and not a privileged membership, EU Minister Egemen Bağış blamed EU countries for “spoiling Greek Cyprus.”
“The pace of accession negotiations would gain new momentum if Turkey proceeded to the full implementation of its customs-union obligations with the EU and made progress toward normalization of relations with Cyprus,” said the report. “The deadlock will affect both sides,” said Bağış, adding that without Turkish Cyprus and Turkey, the EU could be described as a lame duck.
In response to a question about whether Greek Cyprus would continue to search for natural recourses in the region, Bağış said that if they go deeper, then Turkish Cyprus would go deeper too.
Turkey is not seeking a “bravo” from EU countries for every step that the government makes, Bağış said, adding that progress is being made for the sake of the people of Turkey. The European Commission said Turkey needed to improve fundamental rights, particularly freedom of expression, to advance.
According to the Turkish minister, the annual report zoomed in on problem areas but ignored the real progress Turkey has made. However, I am also concerned about the arrested journalists, in addition, these people are not in jail because of their journalistic activities but because they are accused of other crimes,” Bağış said.
While noting that the report was aware of steps taken for the judiciary, Bağış said the structure of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, was approved by the EU Commission. “The Ergenekon and “Balyoz” [Sledgehammer] cases are proof of the superiority of law in Turkey,” the minister said.