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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reunification talks collapse before Cyprus EU stint | EurActiv

Coming directly from a very interesting talk by, and then lunch with, the head of the "Turkey desk" at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I will blog about his talk shortly, but in the meanwhile, this just in from
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said progress in the talks to reunify the divided island of Cyprus was insufficient to call an international conference. The statement appears to put an end to hopes that Cyprus' upcoming EU presidency could be a catalyst for the resolution of the Cyprus problem.
An island divided. Courtesy of the Nations Online Project.
The background is that Ban Ki-moon has been pressuring the parties to come to an agreement ahead of July of this year, which is when (Greek) Cyprus is set to take over the EU's rotating presidency. Turkey has warned that it will essentially freeze relations with the Union during the Cypriot presidency, and one (the only?) way around that would have been an agreement or at least very substantial movement toward a resolution of the Cyprus conflict before July.

In that spirit, Alexander Downer - the UN special advisor to Cyprus - last month announced that he wanted to hold an international conference in May, at which the two parties and the UK would finalize an accord. But it now appears that there has not been enough movement toward a resolution for the conference to be held, which spells trouble for Cyprus and for Turkey-EU relations as a whole, at least during the Cypriot presidency.

Reunification talks collapse before Cyprus EU stint | EurActiv

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Talk on Turkey-EU relations this Thursday!

For readers in or near Stockholm:

What promises to be a very interesting talk this Thursday at Stockholm University. I'm looking forward to catching up with the latest news on Turkey-EU relations and what Sweden has been doing on that topic other than what we see in the media. The talk will be in Swedish.

Do join us if you have the chance!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Talk at Stockholm University April 20th

To readers in Stockholm: This event takes place tomorrow, Friday April 20 at Stockholm University! You are welcome to attend!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Turkey tells EU to lift visa requirements

Turkey calls on EU member states to lift Turkish visa requirements. EU Affairs minister and chief negotiator, Egemen Bağış, made the request in a letter, according a statement by his office on Monday.

The letter was sent to the EU's enlargement and home affairs commissioners, Stefan Füle and Cecilia Malmström respectively, as well as to the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and to the Danish foreign minister. (Denmark currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council.)

Turkish Minister of EU Affairs, Egemen Bağış

No word on any responses but the Shengen visa requirement for Turkish citizens is a sensitive political issue in many EU capitals and I would be surprised if there were positive movement on it in the near future.  Hürriyet reports that the UK may introduce simplified procedures for Turkish university students in the UK. But the UK already has some of the least restrictive requirements (regarding length of stay etc.) so this is hardly a significant development.

The letter makes two basic arguments. First, that the EU would benefit from increased travel from Turkey. It is interesting to note the manner in which this is framed: Turkish economic vigor vis-à-vis EU sclerosis.
Within the last decade Turkey has achieved remarkable economic growth indicating that the current visa regime of the EU has become redundant. It is apparent that EU countries, which are going through an economic crisis would benefit from the commercial, cultural, educational, touristic etc. visits of Turkish citizens, which would be enabled by the lifting of the visa requirement.
Second, Bağış points to a number of rulings in EU and member state courts that affirm that the visa requirements violate the Additional Protocol of the 1973 Association Agreement.
[A]ccording to the German courts, Turkish nationals who are tourists should be able to enter Germany without a visa requirement.  
Similarly, the Haarlem Court of the Netherlands has ruled on the 14th of February 2011, that Turkish service providers and entrepreneurs have the right of visa free travel to the Netherlands.... Consequently, according to the Dutch high court, the visa requirement imposed on Turkish entrepreneurs must be considered to be in conflict with the prohibition of discrimination as laid down in Article 9 of Ankara Agreement.
The full text of the letter is available here. For an eloquent description of what the stringent national visa requirements feel like from a Turkish point of view, read this post on Mustafa Akyol's the White Path blog.

News.Az - Turkey calls on EU to lift visa requirements
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