ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
A regulation permitting direct trade between Turkish Cyprus and the European Union is now in the hands of the European Parliament and the European Council, according to an official from the commission.
“The commission has completed its job [on the trade regulation]. It is out of our hands. Now other institutions are going to decide upon it,” Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said Friday.
The European Commission had promised to ease Turkish Cyprus’ isolation prior to the 2004 referendums on United Nations plans to reunite the island. The commission’s efforts since then to push for the regulation that would enable direct trade with Turkish Cyprus have failed due to Greek and Greek Cypriot opposition.
Damanaki also said a solution to Turkey’s refusal to ratify a protocol opening up the country’s ports to Greek Cypriot shipping was a necessity.
The country’s EU entry talks on several chapters have been suspended due to its refusal to sign the protocol until the EU endorses the direct trade regulation for northern Cyprus.
Turkey needs to finish entry talks on 31 chapters for admission to the EU. The fisheries chapter is one of several blocked due to the Cyprus issue.
Damanaki also commented on the ongoing talks between the commission and Turkey on visa facilitation, telling journalists that Turkey must sign the readmission agreement for illegal immigrants before the commission will begin discussing the visa regime.
There were still outstanding problems between Greece and Turkey on the wording of the agreement, she said.
Turkey wants the commission to have a clear mandate from the member countries to negotiate the visa facilitation before it signs the readmission agreement whereas the commission says it needs to have the agreement signed before it asks for the mandate.
Turkey fears the commission would not start visa facilitation talks even if the agreement is signed.
Visa-free travel from Turkey to the EU is a major fear in the European public which, according to many observers, is becoming increasingly anti-immigrant and xenophobic. The global economic crisis has further strengthened the growing tendency to keep Europe’s doors closed to foreigners.