On Dec. 17 last year, the European Council decided to open accession negotiations with Turkey next month. Two conditions were put to the Turkish government: a comprehensive legal reform aimed at reinforcing the rule of law and human rights, and approval of the Adaptation Protocol of the Ankara Agreement, which extends the customs union with the EU to all new member states, including the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey has met these conditions: the legal reform entered into force on June 1, and the Protocol was signed on July 29.
A formal recognition by Turkey of the Republic of Cyprus, including its extension to the northern part of the island, was not requested as a precondition for starting accession talks. This is a complex matter related to efforts by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to negotiate a comprehensive settlement leading to reunification of the island.
Last year, both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community accepted Annan's proposals, which were, however, rejected by the Greek Cypriot side. There is every reason to expect Annan will bring the question to a positive conclusion well before Turkey's possible entry into the EU in around 2015. The Cyprus issue should therefore not be construed as an obstacle to the start of negotiations.
The same is true of the reported intention of some EU governments to have the "Privileged Partnership" concept explicitly included in the negotiating framework as an alternative to full membership. This proposal was discussed at last year's European Council meeting and rejected, resulting in a reference to "open-ended negotiations" in the Council's conclusions. That wording -- never used in previous enlargement rounds -- may have ruffled Turkey's feathers, but it was finally accepted as the type of constructive ambiguity that is so often used in international diplomacy.
It is nonetheless obvious from the very nature of accession negotiations that full membership must be the goal. Without that prospect, no candidate country would go through the painful process of adopting the tens of thousands of rules and regulations contained in the Acquis Communautaire (the body of EU law). To ensure that it does, is, after all, the main purpose of accession talks.
Moreover, it is difficult to imagine what advantages could be offered to Turkey in the framework of a "Privileged Partnership" beyond its long-time status as an associate member of the EU. The Customs Union concluded 10 years ago allows free trade for all but agricultural goods. Turkey is invited to Council meetings, it can participate in various EU programs and in manifestations of the European Common Foreign Policy, and, as a member of NATO, it is a partner in EU-NATO security cooperation.
Finally, like all candidate countries, Turkey also receives financial and technical assistance in support of ongoing reform programs. Short of full membership, there is hardly room for added value in Turkey's relationship with the EU.
Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has spelt it out with the necessary clarity: "If we stick to what we have ourselves decided at the highest political level in the European Council, as we should, I am reasonably confident that the negotiations will start on Oct. 3."
This statement is to the credit of the European Commission, and there is not much to be added, except to emphasize that it is up to EU governments to treat Turkey with the fairness that all candidate countries deserve. To renege on formal decisions and commitments, or to add last-minute obstacles, would make a mockery of the union's credibility. Negotiations therefore must begin on Oct. 3.
Martti Ahtisaari, Finland's former president, is chairman of the Independent Commission on Turkey. Albert Rohan is a former director-general of Austria's Foreign Ministry. Copyright: Project Syndicate
Almost as soon as the plane carrying a US delegation led by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi took off from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) on Thursday, Beijing announced four days of live-fire military drills around Taiwan. China unilaterally cordoned off six maritime exclusion zones around Taiwan proper to simulate a blockade of the nation, fired 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles and conducted coordinated maneuvers using naval vessels and aircraft. Although the drills were originally to end on Sunday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theater Command issued a statement through Chinese state media that the exercises would continue,
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week represented a milestone in Taiwan-US relations, but also pricked the bubble of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) big lie that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. During a speech delivered at the Presidential Office in Taipei on Wednesday, Pelosi said: “Forty-two years ago, America made a bedrock promise to always stand with Taiwan,” referring to the US’ Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. On the eve of her visit to Taiwan, Pelosi published an article in the Washington Post in which she stated that “America must stand by Taiwan.” With China
Despite political pressure at home to keep her from doing so, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally visited Taiwan last week, causing quite a stir. As Pelosi stuck to her guns, her visit was of considerable significance. Pelosi was born into the D’Alesandro political family. Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr, was a US Representative and later mayor of Baltimore for 12 years. Pelosi was elected to the US House of Representatives at the age of 47 after her children were grown, and became the US’ first female House speaker in 2007 after the Democratic Party won the House majority.
United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) founder and former chairman Robert Tsao (曹興誠) on Friday last week pledged to donate NT$3 billion (US$100 million) to help Taiwan protect itself from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aggression. While still UMC chairman, Tsao gained a reputation for supporting unification with China and backing parties such as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the New Party and the People First Party, which have similar leanings. During a TV show on Monday, host Clara Chou (周玉蔻) asked Tsao which politicians he now supported. Tsao said he had supported the New Party when it formed, had become disappointed by People First