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MEPs consider allowing EU trade with northern Cyprus 20 mai 2010

Posted by Acturca in Economy / Economie, EU / UE, South East Europe / Europe du Sud-Est, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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European Voice (Belgium), 20.05.2010

By Toby Vogel

European Parliament to discuss controversial trade plans. The political leadership of the European Parliament will discuss on 10 June a controversial proposal that would enable the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus to trade directly with the European Union. 

The government of Cyprus has been blocking the proposal from the European Commission since 2004 in the EU’s Council of Ministers. But changes made by the Lisbon treaty mean that Cyprus no longer has a veto over the issue and MEPs have acquired powers of co-decision over what the Commission considers to be a matter of international trade.

The Cypriot government, which represents the Greek part of the divided island, fears that the law could be approved before the end of the year. The proposal is so controversial that Vital Moreira, a Portuguese centre-left MEP who chairs the international trade committee, has referred it to the Parliament’s conference of presidents – the leaders of the political groups – asking them to “consider the political implications of this dossier”.

If adopted, the direct trade regulation could unblock Turkey’s bid for membership in the EU. Eight chapters of Turkey’s accession talks are frozen because Turkey has barred Cypriot traffic from its ports and airports as long as the Turkish Cypriots cannot directly trade with the EU. The Turkish government has said that it will allow Cypriot traffic if the regulation is adopted, a position reaffirmed by Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s Europe minister, in Istanbul earlier this month (7 May).

Markos Kyprianou, the foreign minister of Cyprus, was in Brussels last Wednesday (12 May) to discuss the matter with Jerzy Buzek, the president of the Parliament. “This is a regulation which is legally and politically unacceptable and undermines the prospect of reaching a solution in Cyprus,” Kyprianou said. The Cypriot government says that the proposal would imply a recognition of the northern part, under Turkish occupation since 1974, as a separate legal entity, a view that has been endorsed by the legal service of the Council.

Northern Cyprus is technically part of the EU, but EU law has been suspended because the Republic of Cyprus does not exert effective authority over the territory. The Commission’s legal service disputes the Cypriot argument, saying that the EU trades with other territories that are part of the EU but not inside its customs union, such as Gibraltar. Cyprus has pledged to challenge the regulation in the European Court of Justice should it be adopted.

Mualla Çirakli, the head of the Brussels office of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, claims that MEPs are on the whole “quite sympathetic and supportive” of direct trade between northern Cyprus and the EU. The Parliament’s Socialist, Liberal and Green groups support the proposal while the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) have not taken a position. Niccolò Rinaldi, an Italian Liberal MEP who is to write a report on the proposal if the political groups decide to pursue it, said that he would not comment before the discussion in June.

Wilfried Martens, the president of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), said during a visit to Cyprus in early May that his party opposed the regulation and was trying to convince the other political groups in Parliament to reject it as well. “It is questionable whether the Parliament has jurisdiction over the direct trade regulation,” Ioannis Kasoulides, a centre-right Cypriot MEP, told European Voice.

The Commission forwarded the proposal to Parliament in December, following the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, as part of a package of some 500 proposals whose legal basis had changed with the treaty.

Settlement talks

Demetris Christofias, the president of Cyprus, is to meet Dervis Eroglu, the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, on Wednesday (26 May) to resume the settlement talks begun under Eroglu’s predecessor, Mehmet Ali Talat. Talat lost a leadership election in the north on 18 April after more than 70 face-to-face meetings with Christofias failed to produce a settlement. Eroglu campaigned on a hard-line nationalist platform but has pledged not to revisit questions that were settled in the talks between Christofias and Talat.


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