Turkey gives in on energy demands but wants EU favours

July 15, 2009

   The natural gas supplies have not been secured and neither have the 8 billion euros to build the European Union-backed Nabucco pipeline, but one thing the fanfare surrounding the project’s intergovernmental signing ceremony on Monday may point to is improved prospects for Turkey’s European Union membership.

    Turkish newspapers have called Monday’s ceremony ‘the signing of the century’ and have said that Turkey’s cooperation in the long-delayed project might be the way for Ankara to gain ground on its EU bid at a time when Turkey’s European journey has come to all but a standstill.

    A much publicised, albeit slightly awkward, high five between Turkish Prime Minister and European Commission President Manuel Barroso during the ceremony was all over Turkish newspapers and seemed like icing on the cake after Barroso said agreement over the terms of the 31 billion cubic metre pipeline would lead to a “new age in relations between Turkey and the European Union.”

    The pipeline, which was planned to cut Europe’s reliance on Russian gas after a 2006 row between Ukraine and Moscow that left much of Europe in the cold, has been marred by political infighting.

    Most famously Turkey has demanded rights to 15 percent of the pipeline’s gas at a cheaper price in order to meet domestic needs or sell on to other countries.

    Turkey’s decision to give up that demand, however, should create some pressure on Ankara’s detractors to bring about the opening of at least the energy chapter of the negotiation process, said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in an interview with Reuters on Monday.

     “I think the Turkish government did the right thing because it demonstrates that we can agree on this, and it puts pressure on the (European) Council to open the energy chapter. The Commission can put pressure on the council because Turkey’s energy sector has evolved.”

    Analysts say a move such as the opening of the much-prized energy chapter would be a step toward helping Brussels and Ankara overcome other differences on reforms such as freedom of speech and the opening of Turkish ports to Cypriot vessels.

    Turkey, which has hoped its strategic value as a partner for Europe’s energy security would outshine more endemic problems in its reform process, was enfuriated by traditional enemy Cyprus blocking the energy chapter earlier this year.

    Turkey began accession negotiations in 2005 but talks have been moving at a snail’s pace in a climate of domestic political problems in Turkey and a reluctance among major EU states such
as France and Germany towards further enlargement of the bloc.

    Diplomats have said Cyprus has refused the opening of the energy chapter due to Turkish-led gas exploration in a part of the Mediterranean Cyprus claims as its own.

    Cyprus has been divided between its ethnic Greek and Turkish communities since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup aimed at union with Greece.

    Turkey’s chief European Union negotiator Egemen Bagis however said that now that Turkey had withdrawn its demands from the pipeline consortium it was Europe’s turn to make a move.

    “Still keeping the Energy Chapter closed makes one think,” he told a group of mostly Turkish journalists.

    Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan angered Brussels earlier in the year when he made comments, later taken back, that Turkey would review its support for the Nabucco project if the energy chapter were not opened.

    Turkey has opened 11 of the 35 chapters or areas of policy it must harmonise on to join the bloc since it started negotiations in 2005.

9 comments

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The Energy Chapter cannot open as long as Turkey continues to threaten Cyprus, a member state of the European Union, for legitimately conducting oil and gas exploration within Cyprus’ soverign exclusive economic zone. Turkey’s verbal threats are coupled by repeated vilations of the airspace and territorial waters of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkish military vessels and aircraft. Such conduct is certainly not European and as long as this candidate country engages in such threats and intimidation tactics to prevent a member state of the EU from engaging in exporation and exploitation of its sovereign natural resources, the energy chapter in Turkey’s negotiations will have to remain closed.It is up to Turkey alone to change its attitude and act in conformity with international law and conduct so as to enable this important chapter to open. It is that simple.

Posted by Erato Kozakou Marcoullis | Report as abusive

As long as Turkey does not truly recognize sovereignty of Cyprus, arguing over Turkey’s violating the right’s of sovereign Cyprus is meaningless and not fruitful. Militarily, Turkey sees Cyprus as a strategic issue, and it is pretty obvious why that is. So, to expect that that will change by yelling louder is ridiculous. Instead, new ideas and openings for cornered politicians are needed. The ones who benefit from status quo should be exposed; patriotism that is based on a belief that either side is inherently good, and that there is an inherent evilness to the opposite side should be eliminated. And this is not that simple.

Posted by Mehmet Ornek | Report as abusive

The issues regarding energy supplies to the EU population of 500 million are far too important to be blocked by a tiny insignificant state of 750 000 which has it’s own totally non-EU orientated agenda

Posted by Ian Eden | Report as abusive

Get real,
Turkey will never join the EU even if it withdraw all the groups from Cyprus and Cyprus agrees to the union.
Most Europeans and those countries that count the most don’t want Turkey in. The Turks if they have any brains should withdraw their application.

Posted by Vasili | Report as abusive

Erato Kozakou Marcoullis will do well to look at both sides of the equation. Turkey claims that it is the Cypriot Greek government which is not adhering to the international law by ignoring Turkey’s and more importantly Turkish Cypriots’ right. Greek Cyprus claim that it is its sovereign right, and its alone, to carry out the proposed exploration around Cyprus.

The whole of Cyprus do not belong to Greeks, as much as they would like to think so. For as long as the right of Turkish Cypriots are repeatedly ignored Turkey, as one of the three guarantors of the Constitution of Cyprus, has every right to defend Turkish Cypriot’s right, as it did in 1974 when Greeks attempted to unify Cyprus with Greece.

Posted by Nixar Osman | Report as abusive

Turkey was one of the guarantors of the Cypriot Republic, but instead of restoring the peace they killed the Innocent civilian Greek population displaced hundreds of thousand people including Turkish Cypriots, destroyed and looted places of worships, it’s like putting the wolf to watch the lambs and are still occupying an independent country for thirty five years. Turkey did everything except restoring the peace in the Republic of Cyprus.
Turkey has done nothing more in 1974 than showing her true uncivilized face directly from the steps of central Asia that some Turks are so proud off and finally Turkey has no respect to anyone who is not a “Turk” or claimed to be “Turk”. It takes much more than dressing European and having some impressive buildings in your “country” to be called European.
European is a way of thinking, to be Greek is a way of Thinking also to be open to new Ideas that I am afraid I can’t say for the majority of the Turks.
Finally one more note Greece did punish the people who were involved in the coup of 1974 and are still in prison.
I am hoping that they are plenty of intelligent people in Turkey that see their situation of their country and one day they might weak up the rest of the Turkish people, there is always a hope for a better future if they really want to.

Posted by Chris Kanaridis | Report as abusive

What Turkey did in 1974 saved lives in Greece and in Turkey. If Greek Military had not staged a coup and killed innocent Cypriots (Ethnic Turks in Cyprus), there would not be a need to divide island. It is much safer now with the populations divided, and when Greek Cypriots are civilized enough to live along with Turks, the island can be united again. Energy Policy of Europe is a totally unrelated subject, and Turkey’s interests are in line with Europe’s.

Posted by Tunca | Report as abusive

The ‘Greek Cypriot Administration’ and NOT Cyprus has nothing to do with Turkey’s EU ambitions! The GCA is way too insignificant and as a noncontributing banana republic of the EU can never stand in the way of EU for Turkey!

Posted by Levo | Report as abusive

The Greek Cypriots are single-handedly responsible for the current situation in Cyprus. Had the Greek Cypriot militants / terrorists of the EOKA not attempted to append the whole island to Greece the Turkish ‘Peace Operation’ in 1974 would not have taken place.

All must bear in mind there are two separate communities in the island and as demonstrated by the Greek Cypriots in the latest UN sponsodred referandum there is NOTHING to unify.

Cyprus has been in peace with NO bloodshaed since the Turkish operation.

The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus is a REALITY and is not going anywhere!

Posted by Mehmet | Report as abusive