Politics

EU threatened with veto as Cyprus hits back at Brussels’ ‘positive agenda’ with Turkey

Nicos Anastasiades criticises Brussels' 'positive agenda'

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The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades said he is ready to veto any decision which would fuel a “positive agenda” between the European Union and Turkey which may include an upgrade of the customs union. President Tayyip Erdogan has previously said he remains committed to full membership in the European Union, for which it is a candidate country despite strains in recent years. But President Anastasiades said it would be “political suicide” to accept it.

President Anastasiades told Euronews: “A positive agenda is adopted when there is positive behaviour.

“When on the contrary one challenge comes after another you realise that it would be political suicide if with my knowledge I accept a positive agenda that would not include Cyprus.

“I have no choice.”

President Erdogan has downplayed EU membership in recent years as the bloc has ramped up criticism of Ankara’s foreign policy and rights record, and dangled the threat of EU sanctions.

Following a video conference in March, EU leaders mixed encouraging words for Ankara with concern about its worsening human rights record, lamenting the decision to quit an international accord to protect women from violence.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters following the summit: “Turkey has shown a more constructive attitude.

“However, we also know this process of de-escalation remains fragile.”

Aiming to reward President Erdogan for pulling back from confrontation over gas exploration, the EU can now prepare for a deeper customs union with Turkey.

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EU leaders said that their experts can “work on a mandate for the modernisation of the customs union,” according to a statement, allowing the 1990’s-era trade agreement to be expanded to services, farm goods and public procurement.

The customs union expansion would bring Turkey, an EU candidate for membership of the bloc, fully into the internal market of the world’s largest trading bloc, allowing almost all goods and services to flow unhindered and swelling its size by 80 million Turkish consumers.

The plan dates from 2016, when Turkey agreed to host Syrians fleeing civil war, but a host of disagreements between Ankara and Brussels over human rights, hydrocarbons and Turkey’s stalled EU membership bid prompted EU states to hold back.

Negotiations could still take several years to complete and the EU is concerned that Erdogan could change course as he seeks a bigger regional role for Turkey, moving against the EU.

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EU leader said in a stateent: “We call on Turkey to abstain from renewed provocations or unilateral actions in breach of international law.”

The EU also threatened in the statement “to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests,” referring to travel bans and asset freezes on individuals, as well as sanctions on important sectors of the economy such as energy and tourism.

In another sign of lingering tensions, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the EU had no jurisdiction on drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara accused Brussels on Wednesday of “playing for time” and rejects talk of sanctions as unhelpful and a distraction between the two trading partners.

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